Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate Truffles

When I received an email from William Sonoma's food blog, I was in for a surprised. Chocolate truffles made with only five ingredients? WHAT?!?! Really? I had to test their recipe just to see how easy it was. Holy sugar rush!!! Super easy to make. They also taste perfectly sweet since no additional sugar was added.

I skipped brandy when I tested this recipe. Next time, I will add something different... not sure what that will be yet. 

For the leftover truffles, add them to homemade ice cream or spread them on the graham crackers with homemade maple syrup marshmallows to make s'mores. The possibilities are endless.
Chocolate Truffles
adapted from William Sonoma’s Chocolate Truffles
makes approximately 30 – 40

1 cup heavy cream
10 oz. chocolate chips or bars
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Add the heavy cream into a pot and bring it to a soft boil (bubbles on the side).
  2. Turn off the heat and stir in chocolate and butter.
  3. Whisk until the mixture has a smooth texture.
  4. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and place in a refrigerator until firm, 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking mat or parchment paper.
  6. Scoop generous tablespoonful of chilled ganache (about 1 oz).
  7. Roll it into a ball and place it on a prepared baking sheet.
  8. Chill for 10 minutes.
Coating Truffles

  1. Place cocoa powder, toasted coconut, or toasted nuts of choice on a separate plate.
  2. Roll the ganache balls in the cocoa powder, toasted coconut, or toasted nuts then place them back on to baking sheet.
  3. Keep the truffles in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tips: Instead of coating the truffles, sprinkle them with toppings of choice.

Allergy Info: My chocolate truffles are free from or can be made without eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. 

Depending on the coatings or toppings, these truffles can be made for nut free sweet tooth if use seeds (chia, toasted sunflower or pumpkinseeds) or dried fruits.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Maple Syrup Marshmallows

Brek luvs marshmallows. Since I was on a corn free diet, I didn't buy any prepackaged marshmallows for over a year. I was afraid of corn-taminations. One day, Brek and I watched Ina made marshmallows on her Barefoot Contessa show. Looked super easy to make, right? Yes!!! BUT she used corn syrup. I've always substitute maple syrup with corn syrup, so I gave this recipe a test drive.

The marshmallows turned out great. A hint of maple syrup was perfect. Brek luvs them. I feel great that he can have something sweeter without additives. Now that Camden is older (3 yrs old as of this writing), he also luvs marshmallows. The best part of making the marshmallows is getting my boys to lick the bowl and whisk while the marshmallow mixture is still fluffy... like marshmallow cream.

When I tested this recipe, the maple syrup was four dollars for a big bottle. Since then, the price doubled. So to save money, I've made these marshmallows with only half a cup of maple syrup. Still taste mapley. If option allows, test this recipe with one cup of maple syrup.

Maple Syrup Marshmallows
adapted from Ina's Homemade Marshmallows
makes: 20 to 50, depending on the shapes and sizes

3 packages (0.5 oz) unflavored gelatin (Knox or Great Lakes)
1 cup (8 oz) cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups (10 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) maple syrup
Confectioners' (or powdered) sugar for dusting

  1. In the bowl of stand-alone mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the gelatin to 1/2 cup of cold water. Set aside and allow the gelatin to bloom.  
  2. In a small saucepan, cook the sugar, maple syrup, and 1/2 cup water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Bring the syrup to a boil and cook until it reaches 200°F degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
  4. While the mixer is on low speed (speed 1 on Kitchen Aide), slowly pour the syrup onto the side of the bowl.
  5. Increase the speed to high (speed 8 or 10) and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grease and dust an 8 x 12-inch glass baking dish with confectioners' sugar.
  7. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan.
  8. With wet hand, roughly smooth the top.
  9. Dust with more confectioners' sugar.
  10. Cover with a towel without touching the marshmallow and leave it in the room temperature overnight.
  11. Turn the marshmallow onto a board and cut them into desire shapes.
  12. Dust them with more confectioners' sugar and store them in a container with more confectioners' sugar.
Alternatives: After the marshmallow mixture is whipped, I scoop about a tablespoon onto each graham cracker to make s'more. Taste as good without toasting them. Put each one in a plastic bag and give them to anybody who wants something sweeter.

I also use cookie cutters to cut them into different fun shapes. Dip the marshmallow shapes into melted chocolate and refrigerate them until the chocolate is set. What a combination: chocolate and marshmallow.

Another alternative is to cut the marshmallows into itty bitty shapes. Place them on a plate and let them dry out until they are crunchy. Add them into the morning cereal. They remind me of marshmallows found in the Lucky Charms cereal.

Allergy Info: My maple syrup marshmallows are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. 

If you are sensitive to corn, be sure to find safe pure maple syrup. I've always used Maple Groove Farms pure maple syrup. As for confectioners' (or powdered) sugar, I've used Central Market brand which has tapioca starch.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

I luv all things pumpkins. My kids do too. But when it comes to a pumpkin pie, we always find ourselves eating only the fillings and skipping the crusts. I wonder what was the point of me slaving over homemade pie crust if we weren't gonna eat it.

Last month, I finally had the time to flip through Cuisine At Home magazines. There was a pumpkin pie recipe BUT with graham cracker crust. Why didn't I think of that? I asked Brek if he wanted a pumpkin pie for breakfast, and he said, "Yes." (No need to wonder. My kids are allowed to eat desserts for breakfast only if I make them myself. I sometimes added the good stuff. Shhh... don't tell them that.)

I thought it would be easier for me to pack Brek's breakfast pumpkin pie if I baked them in a cupcake liner. So I gave this recipe a test drive. The pumpkin pie turned out really tasty... not too sweet. Brek agreed. The pumpkin pie in a cupcake liner was also easy for him to eat. A few days later, my friend came for a visit and stayed for dinner. I gave one for her to try. The first thing she said was "This is so pretty." Then she kept repeating, "This is really good, Nora." I packed her two more pies to take home. I also made a pumpkin pie smoothie for breakfast by adding these pumpkin pies with yogurt and milk... no sugar added. They were pumpkineelicious.

Pumpkin Pies
adapted from Cuisine At Home's Pumpkin Pie
makes 12 cupcake-sized pumpkin pies

Prep work
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 12 standard cupcake pan with foil cupcake liners. Set aside.
For the crust
     4 oz honey graham crackers (New Morning)
     1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) granulated sugar
     2 Tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted (Kerygold)

  1. Place the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. (Or crumble the graham crackers by hands.)
  2. Add sugar and melted butter.
  3. Pulse a few times to blend.
  4. Divide the crumbs evenly among the cupcake liners, about one tablespoon for each cup.
  5. Using the back of a spoon, press the crumb to pack it to the bottom of the cupcake liner.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Then set aside to cool.
For the filling
     2 large eggs (Eggland's Best)
     1/2 cup (3 oz) vanilla granulated sugar (homemade)
     1/2 cup (7 oz) pumpkin puree (Luby's)
     1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream (Daisy)
     3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
     1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.
  2. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Add all of the spices into the batter and mix until combine.
  4. Using a small scooper, place the filling into each cupcake liner.
  5. Bake until a tooth pick inserted in the middle of the filling comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the whipped cream topping
     3/4 cup (6 oz) heavy whipping cream
     1/3 cup vanilla granulated sugar (homemade)

  1. In a large bowl, using a hand mixture, whip the heavy whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Frost each pumpkin pie with the whipped cream.
  3. Place the pumpkin pies in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Allergy info: My pumpkin pie is free from or can be made without corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. If you are super sensitive to corn, use silicone cupcake liners as these foil cupcake liners may not be corn free.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Endless Possibility of a Pizza Dough

Would you believe that all commercial breads have some sort of corn ingredients in them? After a year of no bread in my diet, I decided that my 2011 New Year's resolution would be "to master the art of bread making".

I started with reading a lot of bread making cookbooks. The one that I found most useful was Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. If you are new to bread making, read this cookbook first. Their techniques and instructions are super easy to follow. No fuss. No intimidation.

Since then, I've tried baking bread from many bread recipes. For this pizza dough recipe, I adapted from Amy's Bread. Her techniques are very old school, which translates to authentic yumminess. Everything is made by hands. After I tried her techniques, I decided to take a few short cuts. No differences except less time consuming.

I usually make this pizza dough in the morning (around 9am). Then I leave it to rise at a room temperature until it is time for me to make the pizza (around 4pm). For best result, I use a kitchen scale to measure the wet and dry ingredients. Make a note of room temperature. Bread dough will rise faster in the summer than in the winter. Learn to make this pizza dough and the possibility of making something savory and something sweeter are endless. 

UPDATED (Dec12, 2015): I made some changes to this pizza dough recipe with easy short cuts.

Pizza Dough
adapted from Amy's Bread,
makes 3 (16 inch) round pizzas
1 1/4 cups (11 oz.) warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (Red Star)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups (15 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over a cup of warm water. Stir until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes, depending on a room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and be sure to scrap all the yeast out of the cup.
  4. Stir until a soft dough is formed.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a silicon baking mat and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 to 4 minutes.
    Note: Here are two tips that will save your sanity. (1)
    Be careful not to add too much flour during kneading, or the dough will end up dry. (2) Use the silicon baking mat instead of your hands to knead the dough. This way your hands are free from sticky dough. (see picture above)
  6. Shape the dough into a ball.
  7. Add olive oil in the same large bowl.
  8. Place the dough in a bowl and coat it with olive oil.
  9. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the room temperature.
  10. Punch down the dough and knead briefly to remove air bubbles.
  11. This pizza dough is ready for you to make pizza, focaccia, baguettes, french bread, or desserts.
To make a 16 inch round pizza
  1. Place a large baking sheet in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven 400°F to 440°F. NOTE: The higher the oven temperature, the faster the pizza will bake. Keep in mind that some baking sheets can tolerant up to 440°F. If using baking stone, turn the oven temperature to 500°F. The pizza will bake on a pizza stone within 8 minutes.
  3. Line a parchment paper on a no rims baking sheet (or a pizza peeler).
  4. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
  5. Place one of the dough on the no rims baking sheet lined parchment paper.
  6. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 16 inch round shape.
    Note: Don't fuss with perfecting the roundness of the dough. As long as the dough is roll out to your liked thickness, the pizza will cook evenly and will taste great.
  7. Brush the dough with pizza sauce.
    : Too much sauce will make a soaky pizza. Use pastry brush to distribute sauce evenly on the dough.
  8. Add cheeses and toppings to your liking amount. 
  9. Drizzle the whole pizza with olive oil, especially around the edge. (optional)
  10. Once the oven is ready, wait for 5 minutes for the baking sheet that is in the oven to become really hot. Then slide the pizza dough onto the baking sheet that is in the oven.
  11. Bake until the crust is golden. Note: Use the following (electric) oven temperature and timer.
    or 400°F, bake the pizza for 15 to 20 minutes.... For 440°F, bake the pizza for 12 to 15 minutes.... For 500°F, bake the pizza for 8 minutes
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven and cut into slices. Enjoy them while they are hot.
    TIP: Use the cookie cutters to cut the pizza into fun shapes. Check out the pizza bones I made for Brek's lunchbox.
Suggestions for sauces and toppings:
Pizza toppings: cooked and crumbled sausages, cooked and sliced bacon, green or black olives, fresh basil, fresh sliced peppers, leftover cooked meat (chicken or fish), fresh asparagus (any size), manchego (sheep’s milk cheese), mozzarella (fresh mozzarella buffalo’s milk cheese or Organic Valley).

Allergy Info: This pizza dough is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. Choose toppings based on your food allergy diet. Make sure to get strip of three packets Red Star Yeast, with only yeast as an ingredient listed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Things Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite time of the year. This is the day when a grown woman (me!) gets to dress up in costume and nobody thinks, "Crazy!" In the kitchen, I luv to bake Halloween treats for my kids and their friends. So here are photographs of all things Halloween.

Last year, I attempted to bake sugar cookies. The cookie dough was made with coconut oil, which made it really hard to roll out. The coconut oil has to have certain texture and consistency or else the dough becomes a glob. I had to roll the dough, put it in the freezer, cut into Halloween shapes, put it back in the freezer before baking. See? Too much work!

I haven't done any better sugar cookies this year. I tried the cookie dough with butter this time. Well, just like last year, the same thing happened with not getting butter cold enough or too cold. Very temperamental, just like coconut oil. Texas hot weather didn't help at all. BUT I luv the cookie cutters I found this year. The skeleton cookie cutter can also be used to make gingerbread man cookies. The only thing I don't like about it is if the cookie dough is not cold enough, the dough will stick to the cookie cutter. Forcing the dough out of the cookie cutter can be a challenge. I'll try making gingerbread men this winter. Maybe it will be cold enough in Texas.

While I was preparing my kids' nighttime snack, I decided to cut the apple slices into Autumn and Halloween shapes. Try using cookie cutters with pear, nectarine, or peach slices. The cookie cutters with pressed patterns are awesome. This is definitely for the fun factor. Who doesn't wanna eat a ghost or a bat?

 Pumpkin cheesecake anyone? Click here for Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe.

Brek was craving a pumpkin cake, so I baked him one. Then I went a little nutty, trying to make it into a Jack-o-Lantern. The result of a rush decorating job was a really HAPPY Jack.
Cannot wait until Halloween next year. I hope I have more time to make Halloween candy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Last month, I craved cheesecake, and I wanted to bake one. Since my friend was throwing her 10 year old a birthday party, I thought, "Why not bake one and share with everyone. Then I don't have to eat all of it myself." I did, and everybody at the party luv it. I baked them in mini muffin cups, thinking in advance that they would be easier to eat. No plates. No forks.

While I was browsing through Pinterest this month, I came across several pictures of pumpkin cheesecake. I asked my kids if they wanted to try my homemade pumpkin cheesecake because... well... somebody had to help me eat them. They unanimously said, "YES!"

I searched my cookbooks and on the internet for a pumpkin cheesecake recipe. Not to my surprise, I found one at William-Sonoma. Their version has gingersnaps and pecans in the crust. I didn't have gingersnaps at the time when I was ready to bake. So I decided to just use honey graham crackers. I also skipped the pecans, keeping it simple.

I cut the recipe in half so feel free to double it. After it was baked in a rectangle pan, I cut the cheesecake into Autumn shapes using cookie cutters. Just for the fun factor. The pumpkin cheesecake was creamy and pumpkinny. I like it warm or cold, and my kids luv it too. That was the biggest compliment since they didn't want my regular cheesecake a month ago. Maybe it was the pumpkin in the cheesecake. A great thing... because I now have a go-to pumpkin cheesecake recipe in my recipe collection.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from William-Sonoma's Pumpkin Cheesecake
serves 5

Prep work:
1. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
2. Lightly spray the 8.5 by 6.5 inches pan with vegetable oil.
3. Line the pan with parchment paper, making sure to cover the side of the pan.
The crust:
2 oz honey graham crackers (New Morning)
1/8 cup (1 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted (Kerygold)
1. In a small bowl, crumble the honey graham crackers by hand.
2. Add the brown sugar and melted butter. Mix well.
3. Place the crumb mixture on to the prepared pan.
4. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to pat the mixture into the bottom.
5. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Transfer the pan into the wire rack. Set aside to cool.

The filling:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice 
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour (King Arthur)
1/2 pound (8 oz) full fat cream cheese, at room temperature (Horizon)
3/4 cup (2.6 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs (Eggland's Best)
1/2 cup (4 oz) pumpkin puree (Libby's)
1/4 cup (2 oz) sour cream (Daisy)
1. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer on a medium speed until creamy.
3. Add the eggs and beat well at medium speed. 
4.  Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream. Beat until smooth. 
5. Add the spice mixture and mix well.
6. Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the crust.
Bake it:
1. Bake the pumpkin cheesecake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. 
2. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. 
3. Allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool completely then cover and refrigerate it until ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Applesauce Smoothie (or Soft Serve Yogurt)

Since Camden couldn't have any of the cow's milk products, I started to look into sheep's milk products. I found manchego sheep's milk cheese at Whole Foods, and I luv it. They don't have that earthy smell like goat cheese. (I gag when I have any goat cheese products.)

Locating sheep's milk yogurt or milk was a challenge. When I saw Old Chathem Sheephearding Company's sheep's milk yogurt at Whole Foods, I was super excited to give it a try. It tasted good... sour. Good sour in so many way. No sugar added for the plain flavor. I wasn't sure if it was corn free though, but Camden ate it with no reactions. For once, it is the only yogurt that I've found with no gum in it.

Getting my kids to eat sheep's milk yogurt is another challenge. Well, they just don't like any type of yogurts. I tried giving yogurt to my kids with various toppings... with fruits, nuts, chocolate, or cookies. You name it. They would only eat the toppings. Go figure! For the passed three weeks, I had two 6 oz containers of sheep's milk yogurt sitting in my fridge. They both were about to expire. What to do? What to do? Smoothie? YES!

Since my kids luv apples, I thought maybe they would like to have apple smoothie. Hmmm... no apples in the fridge. But, wait! Applesauce! Very simple, right? Yup, it was.

Applesauce Smoothie (or Soft Serve Yogurt)
serves 2 small kid-sized cups

2 (4 oz each) unsweetened applesauce, cold (Central Market)
1 (6 oz) sheep's milk yogurt, plain (Old Chathem Sheephearding Company or Bellwether Farms)
1/2 cup small ice cubes
agave, maple syrup, or honey to taste  
  1. In a blender, mix together the applesauce, yogurt, ice cubes, and agave.
  2. Adjust the sweet taste to your liking.
  3. Pour the smoothie into kid-sized cups.
Whipped Topping (dairy and optional)
1/2 cup (4 oz) heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons regular sugar
a pitch of ground cinnamon 
  1. In a large bowl, whip together the heavy whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Spoon the whipped cream on top of the smoothie.
  3. Sprinkle a pitch of ground cinnamon.
  4. Enjoy the smoothie right away or freeze it in a cup for 30 minutes for soft serve yogurt.
Tip: For a thicker smoothie, blend in one frozen banana or 1 Tablespoon Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin.

Allergy Info: This applesauce smoothie is free from or can be made without eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, wheat, and fish. If dairy whipped cream is not used, then it is also dairy free (from cow's milk).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ninjago Cake Pops

I luv cake pops. What a fun idea to put a cake ball on a stick. When Brek wanted to have a LEGO themed birthday party this year, I wanted to make birthday cake pops.

I made cake pops once for Brek's class party. I didn't follow any recipe because... well... I was just playing around.

I started to test recipes about a month before Brek's birthday party. The trouble started right away. My homemade frosting couldn't hold the cake balls together. I could kick myself for not remembering what I did right the first time I made the cake pops. After so many tries, I wanted to go with Plan B: cupcakes. Then I found
a Nordic Ware Cake Pop Kit at Target. I gave the pan a test drive. Whoa!!! Talk about less headache.

Let the making of cake pops adventure begins! I decided to work on the LEGO’s Ninjago theme. Since I couldn’t use colorful candy melt, I thought the chocolate around a cake ball would be perfect as the ninja's mask. Another challenge was making sure a cake ball didn't fall apart when I inserted a stick into it. I decided to use a pound cake recipe to make these cake pops. When cake pops were in the fridge, they firmed up really well, which was what I wanted.

In order for these cake pops to have any resemblance of Ninjago, I made their colorful bodies from craft foam sheets. I drew the decorations on the Ninjago’s outfits using markers and fabric pens. Sensei Wu's hat was a cupcake top, and his beard was made from homemade marshmallow.

Ninjago Cake Pops
makes 24 cake pops

1 1⁄2 cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda (Arm & Hammer)
12 Tablespoons (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Kerrygold)
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade)
2 large eggs, at room temperature (Eggland's Best)
1⁄2 cup (4 oz) sour cream, at room temperature (Daisy)
Vegetable oil

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray (top and bottom) cake pop pan with vegetable oil.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  4. Using a hand mixer, whip together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract on a medium speed until light and fluffy, about one minute.
  5. Add the eggs and sour cream. Mix in medium speed for one minute.
  6. Add the flour mixture and mix with spatula until just combine.
  7. Using a medium size cookie scooper, scoop the batter into the prepared cake pop bottom pan. Cake pop top pan has small holes for venting.
  8. Cover the cake pop pan and insert the two locks.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. Let cake balls cool in a pan for 10 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Trim cake balls if they are not perfectly rounded.
  12. Wash and dry cake pop pan. Use the rest of the batter to make more cake pops if desired.
  13. To make cupcakes, use a large size cookie scooper and scoop the batter into lined cupcake pan. Bake them in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minute (or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean).
For ninja's mask
    1 bag of chocolate chips (Enjoy Life)
  1. Melt half cup of chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  2. Dip the candy stick in the melted chocolate.
  3. Insert the stick into a cake ball.
  4. Place a cake pop on to the cake pop stand.
  5. Repeat step 2 to 4.
  6. Refrigerate the cake pops for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.
  7. Once the cake pops are firm to touch, they are ready for decorating. Melt the rest of the chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  8. Scoop the melted chocolate into a piping bag.
  9. Cut a little bit off of the bottom of the bag.
  10. Pipe the ninja eye brows and eyes.
  11. Pipe the ninja's mask around the eyes.

For Sensei Wu
    1 large cupcake
    homemade marshmallow
    melted chocolate chips
  1. Use the melted chocolate from the piping bag to decorate his eyes.
  2. Attach the marshmallow beard to a cake pop by using melted butter.
  3. Refrigerate this cake pop for about an hour.
  4. To make his hat, slice off the top of a cupcake.
  5. Score under the cupcake top just enough to fit the cake ball. 
  6. Brush the top of a cake pop with melted chocolate.
  7. Place the cupcake top onto the cake ball.
  8. Add more melted chocolate under the hat and around the cake ball as reinforcement.  
Keep the completed Ninjago cake pops in the refrigerator. Let them come to a room temperature for 30 minutes before serving to ensure soft texture cake pops.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Elmo Birthday Cake

For Camden's 2nd birthday, his big brother Brek and I decided we would throw him an Elmo themed birthday party. At that time, he still couldn't eat dairy, chicken eggs, and corn. Since he had a pumpkin muffin for his 1st birthday treat, I really wanted to bake him an actual birthday cake. I could bake a cake that was free from dairy, chicken eggs, and corn. The problem was how I'd decorate it. To this day, I cannot find a corn free food coloring.

One day, we were watching Sesame Street movie on DVD. At the end credits, Brek saw a lot of food art in all kinds of Sesame Street characters. So the food art gave me an idea. I could bake a cake and decorate it using fruits and vegetables.

After searching for a cake recipe in cookbooks and on the internet, I found a Strawberry Cream Cake recipe at William-Sonoma website that I thought I could modify to accommodate Camden's diet. At that time, Camden could have quail eggs. I calculated that I'd need to crack open about 25 to 30 quail eggs. Separating the yolks was another challenge.

The cake turned out very light and fluffy. I highly recommend using kitchen scale to measure the flour, sugar, and eggs. Quail eggs are found in Asian grocery. You can substitute quail eggs with 3 duck eggs or 5 large chicken eggs.

Camden's Elmo Cake
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Strawberry Cream Cake
serves 8 to 10       

1 1/4 cups (5 oz) all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (Featherweight or homemade)
25 - 30 quail eggs (8.5 oz), separated
1 1/4 cups (8.7 oz) granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade)

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Spray Elmo cake pan with oil. Set aside.
  2. To make the cake, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer, whip together egg yolks and sugar on medium speed.
  4. Add the boiling water and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combine.
  6. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites on medium speed until thick (soft peak). 
  7. Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
  8. Spread the batter into Elmo cake pan.
  9. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  10. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  11. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan.
  12. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool completely before decorating.
2 pints fresh blackberries... for Elmo's mouth and eyes
2 pints fresh strawberries... for Elmo's face
1 pint fresh raspberries... for any small space between strawberries
1 apple, halved... or his nose
Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread
1 cup chocolate chips, melted (Enjoy Life)
  1. Wash, dry, and cut all berries in half. Spread coconut spread lightly on the cake. (Coconut spread is used to glue the berries on to the cake. You can also try nut butter or homemade frosting.)
  2. Place the berries and apple onto Elmo cake as noted above.
  3. Use melted chocolate to write "Happy Birthday" message.
  4. Keep the cake refrigerated. Let the cake come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serve. Enjoy a slice of cake with ice cream.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kitchen equipment and gadgets

Don't run out and buy new kitchen equipment and gadgets unless they have been contaminated with years of cooking foods you are now allergic to. Visit my Pinterest and click on "my fav kitchen gadgets" to see the pictures of products I have used and luv in my kitchen. Remember, I'm not promoting these products, and I'm not getting paid in any way (would be nice though).

1. Food processor
Cuisinart 11 cups is a must have for shredding potatoes, cheeses, and cabbages. I sometimes use it to make dough. I have two of these. One of them is dedicated to raw meat since I cannot find a good meat grinder. I also have hand grater for a smaller job.

2. Hand mixer
Save your money on stand alone mixer... unless you wanna make marshmallow. I bought Cuisinart HM-70 Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer at Amazon. This one comes with chef's whisk... perfect for whisking one egg white. The free spatula is a bonus, and it's a perfect gadget for bread making.

3. Green pan
I found them at Target. I have three: a grill pan, an open fry pan, and open wok. You can read more about their products at the Green Pan website. I bought a universal cover for the wok at local Asian grocery store.

4. Kitchen scale
Have you ever baked something that turned out soooo good... then tried baking it again and you wondered "what happened"? Well, every time you measure the all purpose flour by a measuring cup, the flour in that cup is never the same. So enter, a kitchen scale. After I read many products' reviews at Amazon, I bought Kitrics Stainless Steel Scale. I've used this scale to measure everything from flour to sugar to eggs.

5. Bakeware and gadgets
I'm sucker for bakeware, especially gadgets. The best and most often used are Wilton large cookie sheet (great as a pizza stone), airbake cookie sheets (also great as a pizza peel), 12 cups muffin pan, 24 cups mini muffin pan, USA Pans 15 x 6 x 1.5 Inch New England Hot Dog Pan, Chicago Metallic Commercial II Non-Stick Perforated French Bread Pan and Baguette Pan.

I have a lot of measuring spoons, and I am still looking for more. The best one is Farberware 7pc Measuring Spoon Set, sold at Walmart. I have different sizes of ice cream or cookie scoops. OK, I have 5 sizes: XS, S, M, L, and XL. I've used them all at one point.

Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker is great for making breakfast waffles from scratch. Yes, they are much healthier and yummier than the frozen waffles. Chef's Choice 835 Pizzelle Pro Express Bake is great for making very thin waffles... a fun factor purchase. I also bought Danish Ebleskiver Iron... again for fun factor. Remember, I have two boys, and I luv making them fun food. You can see more products at my fav kitchen gadgets.

Can you tell by this list that I need a bigger kitchen... or at least more storage? Yes, I do. When I find new products I really luv, I'll let you know.