Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coconut Macaroons

I'm so glad school is over, but now I'm not so sure what to do with all this free time. I turned to baking. When I made a Samoas cake for a friend's birthday a while back, I had half a bag of coconut flakes leftover and no idea what to do with it. I'd catch a glimpse of it every time I opened my fridge and wondered what I could possibly make with it. Coconut is just not an ingredient that I bake with often. But then I discovered macaroons and realized that I really, really love them. Ever since then, I have been on a quest to find the perfect recipe. I tried a recipe with egg whites but I must have messed up somehow because the cookies ended up with cooked egg for edges. I probably should give it another try before I give up on it, but today I decided to try a different recipe with no egg whites. It involves sweetened condensed milk, some of which I already had in my fridge! Yay for using up leftovers.

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These turned out great - especially the chocolate-dipped bottoms. The crunch from the almond slices were also a great touch to the texture. I'm not going to be premature and call these my favorite just yet. Easiest, yes, but not favorite. Still, give it a try. Your mouth will thank you for the deliciousness and your hands will thank you for the minimal labor involved.

My waistline will probably not thank me if I end up baking every day this summer so thank goodness I am working at summer school starting in July. It won't be full days nor every day so I don't mind it too much. Wish the whole school year was like that! ;)

Coconut Macaroons
From Hip Foodie Mom

3 cups coconut flakes, sweetened
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup almond slices
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone non-stick baking mat. In a large bowl, combine coconut flakes, sweetened condensed milk and almonds.

Using a cookie scoop or spoon, place tablespoon sized macaroons on your baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the macaroons are lightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the macaroons are cooling, using a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chopped chocolate in 30-second intervals until softened and melted. Whisk together until smooth. Dip in the coconut macaroons and set on parchment paper to allow the chocolate to set. You can also place the chocolate dipped macaroons in your refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chocolate Kahlua Cake

Just two weeks of school left! Two weeks seems like a long time though, especially when I am mentally and physically done. This weekend involved a lot of driving and I felt it this morning. I was already drained of my energy by noon. It was worth it though. First, I went to a mini-reunion with college friends, one of whom I haven't seen in two years! It was so good to catch up with her. Another's birthday is coming up so we had an early celebration and I made her this cake!

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Who can say no to Kahlua? I knew she'd love this cake just from the name! The chocolate cake was bland on the first day but on the second and third days, the flavor definitely intensified and paired better with the buttercream frostings. The Kahlua flavor was apparent in the frostings and they were delicious. It was my first time making buttercream frosting. I always think something is more difficult than it is so I've stuck to the traditional butter and powdered sugar frostings up to now. I'll have to incorporate more buttercream in my life because it sure is delicious and easy!

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Don't be daunted by the recipe. Just approach it one step at a time and you'll get through it just fine! Make sure you read through the recipe a couple times as there is a lot involved. The recipe originally makes a 4-layer cake, but I just made this one two layers. I would still recommend cutting thin slices if you do decide to cut down on the layers because it was very rich and I couldn't even finish my slice. I should be ashamed.

After the college reunion, I drove home to surprise my mom for Mother's Day. I had to drive down an already busy interstate with lots of construction happening late at night but it was well worth it. My mom had absolutely no idea so when I busted through the front door, I probably scared her half to death. I also made her a wreath full of sunflowers and it is now hanging on her front door. It's fake fabric flowers but it's handmade and it will always stay alive! She loved it.

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Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. I even wished Happy Mother's Day to the birthday friend who has a rescue pitbull, but to that dog, my friend is everything.

Chocolate Kahlua Cake
From Cooking ala Mel

For the cake layers
2 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (you can also do half whole wheat flour, half unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder (dutch process preferred)
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unrefined sugar
1 1/2 tsp liquid stevia (or 1 1/2 cups more sugar)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup kahlua
3/4 cup coffee, freshly brewed

For the kahlua buttercream filling
3 egg whites (90 g)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons
1 tbsp kahlua
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/8 t salt

For the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting
4 egg whites (120 g)
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
1 1/3 cups (2 sticks + 5 tbsp) butter, cut into tablespoons
10 oz dark chocolate, melted
2 tbsp kahlua
1/4 tsp salt

Line the bottom of four 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and grease with butter. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, liquid stevia, butter, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add the buttermilk, kahlua, and coffee, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix until fully incorporated.

Divide the batter between the four prepared cake pans, and bake at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, wrap tightly and place in the freezer for up to 2 days (or into the fridge for about 2 hours).

For the kahlua buttercream filling: Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof mixer bowl, and place above the water. Whisk the sugar and egg whites until warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl back on the mixer stand, and whisk on medium-high speed until you have stiff, glossy peaks, and the mixture is cool, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each piece. If it appears curdled at this point, keep mixing until it becomes smooth again. Add the kahlua, vanilla, instant espresso, and salt, and mix until well combined. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes to remove air bubbles.

For the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting: Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Set aside to cool. Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof mixer bowl, and place above the water. Whisk the sugar and egg whites until warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved. Place the bowl back on the mixer stand, and whisk on medium-high speed until you have stiff, glossy peaks, and the mixture is cool, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each piece. If it appears curdled at this point, keep mixing until it becomes smooth again. Add the kahlua, melted chocolate, and salt, and mix until well combined. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes to remove air bubbles.

To assemble: Take the chilled cake layers and place one layer on a 8-inch cake board, glued into place by a pea sized amount of frosting. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of the plain kahlua buttercream filling in the center of the layer (one third of the filling), and spread with a small offset spatula to about 1/2 inch away from the edge of the cake. Place the second cake layer on top, repeat with another third of the filling, place the third layer of cake on top, repeat with the final third of the filling, and place the fourth (and final) layer on top. Place a generous dollop of the chocolate kahlua buttercream frosting on top of the cake, spread evenly with an offset spatula, working down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake (this is the crumb coat). Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Once set, remove from fridge and add another large dollop of the chocolate kahlua buttercream on top of the cake and spread the same way, adding another coat of frosting. Scrape off the excess frosting with a straight blade spatula and smooth out.

For a swirl design (see original post for image of design), take a straight spatula and hold at about a 45 degree angle at the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake with light pressure on the spatula against the cake, until you make the swirl all the way around. Repeat going up the cake. Do the same swirling pattern on top, starting from the outside and working your way in.

Chill in the fridge until about a half hour before ready to serve. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 5 days (or at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Roast Pork Loin with Apples

The last time I made this dish was a couple Thanksgivings ago. When my family drove six hours to spend Thanksgiving at my little apartment, I decided to do something different. We generally don't eat a lot so we always have so many leftovers when we cook a turkey that we don't even finish later in the week. I thought I could find just a breast but everybody likes the dark meat anyway. I went for pork. I know we are not even close to Thanksgiving right now so why am I sharing this dish? I wanted to eat pork this week and was looking for recipes when I rediscovered this one so I made it again for dinner.

Roast Pork Loin with Apples

This is a super easy dish that you don't have to save for a special occasion. You can make it on a weekday. It yields a juicy, not-at-all dry piece of pork and yummy apples to go with it. I guess I'm a fan of pork with fruit if you recall the Pork Chops with Whiskied Pears and Thyme that I cooked for Christmas one year.

Roast Pork Loin with Apples

The recipe says that you can also puree the apples and onions for a gravy-type sauce, but I've always just left them as I like eating the chunks. The Fuji apples I used for this recipe were cooked to a perfect level of sweetness. And since I got a Dutch oven this past Christmas, I had the perfect pot that the pork loin could fit into. It was a small but long piece so it disappeared quick. (As you can tell, I piled up my dish quite a bit.) It's an easy dish for a potluck - give it a try!

Roast Pork Loin with Apples

Roast Pork Loin with Apples
From Jul's Kitchen

Boneless pork loin, with some trace of fat, about 600 to 700 g
Sea ​​salt
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 knob of butter
2 cloves of garlic
3 apples
1 white onion
1/ 2 cup of white wine

Tie the pork loin with a twine (I skipped this step as my pork loin was one big piece and did not need to be held together). Rub the meat with sea salt and ground black pepper to flavour the pork.

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter on the bottom of a cast iron skillet (I used a Dutch oven) and let melt the butter over high heat. Add two cloves of crushed garlic.

Place the pork loin into the hot olive oil and let it brown on each side, turning the meat with two wooden spoons as soon as it gets golden brown. You are going to use wooden spoons or spatulas not to prick your beautiful piece of pork: you want the meat to be completely sealed by the heath of the olive oil on the outside and all the juices to be kept inside, to have a tasty and juicy roast! It will take about 10 minutes.

Pour in half a glass of white wine over the pork loin and let almost all the wine evaporate. Now reduce the heat and add the peeled apples and onions, all cut into wedges. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the apples and the onion with the olive oil and cover the pot with a lid, then cook the meat over medium heat for about 25 up to 30 minutes, checking it occasionally.

Remove the meat from the cast iron pot, wrap it with aluminum foil and let it rest.

In the meantime, turn up the heat under the pan with the apples and cook for 5 minutes over high heat to reduce the sauce: you can serve the meat, cut into thin slices, with the apples and the onions just as they are out of the pot, caramelized and soft, or you can purée them to dress the meat with a creamy and sweet gravy.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Red Curry Chicken

On a weeknight, something easy is the way to go for me. I rely on curries a lot because they're super easy to make and, served alongside rice, they're super filling! I can't make my own curry sauces so I like to buy the Golden Curry cubes and Thai Kitchen's red curry sauce. I grew up on Golden Curry cubes, but red curry is new to me and I love it. Coconut milk is so delicious in this curry -- I really could eat this all the time.

Red Curry Chicken

I used different vegetables than what the original recipe used, so you can put in whatever you like. Instead of bok choy, snow peas, and sweet potatoes, I used regular potatoes, sweet onions, and carrots. Brown rice might be better for you, but white rice is a must for me when it comes to a dish with a wonderful sauce.

Once it's a good time to get fresh mussels, I will have to post a recipe for Red Curry Steamed Mussels. It is amazing and the leftover sauce is good to just eat with rice once all the mussels are in your belly.

Always keep this red curry paste in stock. You'll find yourself making this often.

Red Curry Chicken
From Eat, Live, Run 

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tbsp coconut oil [I used vegetable oil]
3 cups coconut milk, light or regular [Definitely go regular!]
1 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp red curry paste
2 baby bok choy, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1″ knob ginger, grated
1 cup chopped snow peas
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick pieces
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. When hot, add the ginger and saute until fragrant — 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and sear until not quite cooked through. Then, add the curry paste. Mix the ginger, chicken and curry paste together and continue to saute over high heat for another two minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and water, then add in the vegetables. Bring curry to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Stir in the fish sauce, salt, lime juice and sugar. Continue simmering over medium/low heat until veggies are soft. This will take about 10 minutes.

Serve curry over rice or quinoa!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Cream cheese in cookies is totally normal. Cheddar cheese in the crust of apple pies is not unheard of. Any more cheeses we can add to sweet things?

Yes! Ricotta Cookies are actually pretty common, but I had not heard of them. I associate ricotta only with pasta dishes so it took me a while simply to get used to the idea of ricotta in the cookies. I'm so glad I finally decided to make them. First off, I can't resist anything lemon so I knew I would like these somewhat. Since it is not an overwhelming cheese anyway, the cookies have only a very slight taste of ricotta. Second, the texture is the best part. The ricotta makes them oh-so cake-y and, boy, are they hard to resist. Third, did I mention the lemon?

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

The cookies themselves are not sweet, so I would not skip out on the glaze. Next time, I might double the lemon zest added to the cookie batter as it wasn't enough for me. The only problem I had is storage. They are great the day of and taste great days after as well, but a day after storing them in an airtight container, they were very moist. Anyone who have made these cookies before have a solution? Just wondering, but really, at least the taste is not affected.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
From Picky Cook

For the cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 large lemons, zested

For the glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 large lemons, zested

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Drizzle the glaze onto the cookies. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.