Tuesday, June 24, 2014

S'more Cookies and Nuggets

It was one of those weekends when I decided to make a batch of maple syrup marshmallows. When I do, you can bet that I will experiment with a lot of freshly whipped marshmallows. So that week, I wanted to do something s'more. Not just placing the marshmallows and chocolate between the graham crackers. Something... a little different.

I came up with a graham crackers cookies recipe. I was going to make them into a little s'more sandwiches, but the dough turned out too dry. The cookies were too thick to make into sandwiches. Think, think, think. Then it darned on me. Why not just top the cookies with marshmallows then drizzle the melted chocolate over them. Like an open-faced sandwich.

Since I always reinvent the food, I decided to fold the cookie crumbs into the marshmallow then dipped them into melted chocolate. And there you have it. Two something sweeter that were created by mistakes.

S'more... open sandwich cookies
makes 14 cookies

1 large egg
1/4 cup (1.8 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) palm shortening
1/2 cup (2.5 oz) graham crackers
1 1/4 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
14 rounded maple syrup marshmallows
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Place a parchment paper or a nonstick matt on the baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, and palm shortening. Set aside.
  3. Crush the graham crackers into crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and baking soda.
  5. Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  6. Mix until combine.
  7. Using a medium scoop, place the batter into the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.
  10. Using a fork, flatten each cookie to form a disk shape.
  11. Transfer them to the wiring rack to cool completely.
  12. Place the maple syrup marshmallows onto each cookie.
  13. Drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate. Enjoy or keep in an air tight container at a room temperature for 3 days.
S'more... nuggets
makes a lot of nuggets

1 cup freshly whipped marshmallow
1/2 to 1 cup baked graham cracker cookie crumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cup melted chocolate
  1. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick matt. Set aside.
  2. Fold the graham cracker cookie crumbs to the freshly whipped marshmallow.
  3. Using a small spoon, scoop the marshmallows into nuggets and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Leave the marshmallow nuggets at a room temperature uncovered to dry, about an hour.
  5. When ready, dip each marshmallow nuggets into the melted chocolate.
  6. Set aside until the chocolate is set. During the summer months, keep the chocolate in the refrigerator to keep the chocolate firm. Enjoy or keep them in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
NOTE: For the s'more nuggets, I made them after I decided to make a batch of fresh marshmallow. To make them with the marshmallows that you already made the day before, microwave the marshmallows for 5 seconds to soften them. Then proceed with step 2. Feel free to make more to feed the crowd.

Allergy Info: These s'more open sandwich cookies and nuggets are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not palm), and fish.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lemon Custard Cake

While I was flipping through the William Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook, the lemon custard cake really caught my attention. I baked lemon bars last year. Camden didn't care for it, but Brek luv it. I never baked anything lemony again. Lately, their taste buds have changed in the best way. Brek likes blackberries and kiwi while Camden likes lettuce and scrambled eggs. I wanted to bake this cake to see if they would like lemony sweet treats. Plus, I really wanted to try baking this lemon custard cake because of how easy the directions were. I could also modify the recipe to make it dairy free.

A few things that I made changes to this cake, beside dairy free, was that I didn't use lemon zest. Why? Well, all of the lemons I've bought, whether they are conventional or organically grown, are waxed. Who wants to have waxed ingredient in their something sweeter anyway? I don't. Instead of lemon zest, I added the lemon pulp. Not only did I juice the lemons, I also scraped off the pulp so the cake would have a lot of lemon flavor.

In the cookbook, there was a little writing about the texture of the cake. The top layer is a cake, and the bottom layer is a custard. Eating two desserts in one. What more can I ask for. The first time I baked the lemon custard cake for our afternoon snack, my kids and I had a few slices a few minutes after it came out of the oven. Of course, the cake was still warm. The leftover cake went into the fridge for a few days. Then we had it again a few days later for our nighttime snack. I think the cake tasted a lot better when it was cold. When the cake was warm, it was just too soft. When the cake was cold, I could really taste the different layers of the cake and the custard.

When I baked this cake again, I baked it the night before and kept it cold in the fridge overnight. It was ready for the next day's snack. Ummm... I luv making something sweeter in advance.

Lemon Custard Cake
modified from William Sonoma's lemon custard cake
makes 9-inch round cake

3 large eggs, divided
1 cup (8 oz) coconut milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) coconut cream
1/4 cup (2 oz) fresh lemon juice with pulp (from 1-2 lemons)
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz) palm shortening
1/2 cup (4 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (1.5 oz) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Have a 9-inch glass pie plate ready. NOTE: There is no need to spray the pie plate with oil. Nothing will stick to the plate. Promise.
  2. Separate the eggs to two different large bowls. Set aside the egg whites.
  3. Whisk the coconut milk, coconut cream, lemon juice (with pulp), shortening, and sugar to the egg yolks until the mixture is creamy.
  4. Add the flour to the lemon mixture and whisk just until just combine. Set aside.
  5. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until firm peaks are formed.
  6. Fold the egg white to the lemon batter until the egg whites are no longer visible.
  7. Pour into the 9-inch glass pie pan.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is light brown and the edges of the cake are pulled away a little bit from the pie plate, about 35 minutes.
  9. Let the lemon custard cake cool before putting it in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
Allergy Info: This lemon custard cake is free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut or palm), and fish.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deep-Fried Chicken Wings

What is not to like about deep-fried food? Chicken wings, anyone? I usually baked the chicken wings, but Brek didn't like them. They weren't crunchy, and the skins were too chewy for him.

I decided to do a little homework on how to cook chicken wings better. I read cookbooks and watched cooking shows on how to deep-fry chickens. Not wings. Just the pieces of chickens. Then I decided to adapt the techniques to make my version of deep-fried chicken wings.

Can you say "WOW"? Brek devoured all the chicken wingetts, and Camden stuffed his tummy with all of the drumettes. I was a proud mommy. I luv seeing my kids eating homemade meals and really enjoying them.

What was the technique that I picked up from cookbooks and cooking shows? Really simple. Making sure the oil is at the right temperature, 375F degree. That's about it. Nothing fancy at all. The most common oil I noticed was either canola oil or peanut oil. I tested many types of oil for deep-frying and I fell in luv with the safflower oil. I personally don't like canola oil as it always leave that stinky after deep-frying smell. Just remember to use the oil with high smoke point.

I use heavy bottom pot to deep-fry the wings. If you have a deep-fryer, that would work very well. I have one, but I have to use too many bottles of oil in the fryer. Plus, it takes too much room on my kitchen counter top. Here's my frugal kitchen tip. I always deep-fry something sweets a few times on different days. Give these deep-fry sweets a try: palm sugar puffed rice, banana and apple fritters, or sesame seeds rice balls. After I use the oil to deep fry something sweet, I use the same oil to deep-fry something savory before I throw out the oil. Always thinking!!!

Feel free to make more wings. Since July 4th is just around the corner, why not make these chicken wings and enjoy the fireworks with a happy tummy. Let's get greasy and messy in the kitchen!!!

Deep-fried Chicken Wings
serves 2 to 3

12 chicken wings
oil for deep-frying
  1. Preheat the oven to 225F degree.
  2. Place the wiring rack inside the baking tray. Put them in the oven, getting ready to keep the wings warm.
  3. Pour the oil into a heavy bottom pot. Attach a deep-fry thermometer, and add the oil, about 2 inches deep.
  4. Heat the oil to 375F degree.
  5. While the oil is heating up, cut the chicken wings into pieces: tips, wingettes, and drumettes.
  6. Separate the wing parts into the same-size piles for an even cooking. TIP: Freeze the tips for future use, such as chicken broth.
  7. Once the temperature reaches 375F degree, deep-fry the wing parts as followed: wingettes for 8 minutes and drumettes for 10 minutes. NOTE: Deep-fry a few wings at a time, about 7-8 pieces. The oil temperature will drop when the chicken wings are placed in the oil. Keep the oil temperature between 350F-375F degree.
  8. Using a tong, take the wings out of the oil to a prepared wiring rack. Keep the cooked chicken wings warm in the oven. Continue to deep-fry the rest of the wings.
  9. Enjoy them warm with the honey mustard sauce, BBQ sauce, or hot sauce. My kids actually enjoy them plain.
Allergy Info: These deep-fried chicken wings are free from or can be make without dairy, egg, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, or fish.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Reading

"No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty look." Summer is finally here!

For us, school is always in because we're homeschoolers. We do take a break with the actually textbook learning now and then. To keep my boys busy this summer, I've thought about doing crafts and some baking activities with them. We also planned to travel, a short family road trip up north of Texas. Brek signed up for a music camp in July, learning to play a drum. So we're busy bees!!!

The one activity we always do every summer is joining the summer reading program at our local library. Brek started the library summer reading activity since he was three years old. Back then, I had to read him twenty books to receive prizes like a pencil, a trophy, and a certificate. Now, he enjoys reading chapter books like the Killing Species or the Percy Jackson series. Two years ago, he read so many Magic Tree House series that he decided it would be his birthday party theme. We even rented a camel for everybody to ride on around our home. That was a blast. I'm super happy that he's into read. Last year, he won a stuffed penguin for Camden when there was a weekly drawing for those who signed up for the program. That was a fun surprise.

Camden prefers coloring and solving puzzles like mazes. Well, he's only four years old and is still learning the alphabets. I read to him like I did with Brek. He enjoys reading anything about the Transformers or the Power Rangers.

What about me? I read too. Every day. I scan cookbooks and constantly searching for recipes that I can play with. Of course, I have my favorites as well. I prefer reading cookbooks about baking, from breakfast treats to scrumptious desserts. The bread making and candy making are my favorite too.

For baking breakfast or sweet treats, I always go back to William Sonoma Collections. The ones I have are Cookies, Dessert, and Fruit Dessert. Here are the recipes I modified from these collections and added to my blog: Brek's Better Brownies, Chocolate Chips Cookies, Quinoa Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies, Elmo's Birthday Cake, and Ninjago Cake Pops.

I luv cookbooks with a lot of photographs or illustrations. How am I suppose to get that inspiration to bake if I can't see what the sweet treats look like. The Step by Step Cakes is that kind of cookbook. It not only has beautiful photographs of the sweet treats, but photographs of step by step for some recipes. Easy ingredients to find and easy instructions to follow.

Last year, I ventured into candy making. Just decided to give a lollipop and gummy snacks a try. The Candy book is probably the one of the books I found to be super helpful. I also had good luck with Brittles, Barks, and Bonbons by Charity Ferreira, including modifying her recipes to dairy free.

For savory cooking, I luv to look for appetizer recipes, especially with Asian flavors. I personally luv the Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder. The recipes are super easy to follow. I made steamed bao successfully because of her recipe. Any cookbook by Martin Yan is also my favorite. He is actually my dad's favorite chef. When my dad retired and moved to Thailand, he gave me all of the Yan Can Cook VHS tapes that he recorded. 

The Food Substitution Bible is a must-have for those who have food allergy or intolerance. I've used this book often as I always modify the recipes I'd like to test.

I'm pretty sure your local libraries carry the books I mentioned here. If not, request them. Come to think of it, I need a library for all of the cookbooks I've been collecting. Seriously, I have tons!!! I usually buy cookbooks when they are on sales. There is a local book store called Half Price Books that carry a large collection of cookbooks for 50% off, even more during the holidays or with coupons. Amazon sometimes sells cookbooks with discount prices. I luv bargains!!!

If you find yourself with nothing to do this summer, why not check out the books from your local library and just scan the food photographs for inspiration. Who knows. You might end up having a food blog too. Let me know if you do, so I can share your blog.

Happy baking something sweeter!!!