Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chocolate Croissants (dairy-free)

Every single time I stop by Whole Foods, I must have one of their chocolate croissants. For as long as I could remember, I really wanted to bake a dairy-free version so that Brek could enjoy them as well.

After I mastered the art of croissant dough, I ventured into baking variety of savory and sweet croissants. Nothing compare to chocolate croissants. They really do take the cake. Not only are they relatively easy to make, they are so addicting.

Making the chocolate croissants are pretty much the same technique as making mini-croissants. The difference between two of my recipes is the shape of the croissants. If you prefer the classic croissant shape, you can certainly make them that way. You may need to use less chocolate chunks. No change to baking time.

Ready to bake???

Chocolate Croissants
makes 8

1 croissant dough
1/4 cup or more for dusting
1/4 cup (2 oz.) palm shortening
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chucks
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Line the baking pan with non-stick mat. Set aside.
  2. Roll the croissant dough out to about 9 by 15 inch. TIP: No need to be accurate as the dough will need to be measure and cut to size.
  3. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.
  4. Working with each piece at a time, place a row of chocolate chunks at the short end and fold the dough over them. (picture 1)
  5. Place one more row of chocolate chunks.
  6. Fold the dough over the chocolate until the small log is formed.
  7. Press to seal the edges.
  8. Place it in the prepared pan.
  9. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  10. Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. NOTE: In a hurry? Go head and preheat the oven while the dough is resting in the fridge (or at a room temperature during winter months).
  11. Once ready, preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
  12. Make the baking soda wash by dissolving the baking soda to warm water.
  13. Brush the baking soda wash over the croissant dough.
  14. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  15. Allow the croissants to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy them while they are piping hot or warm. TIP: For more chocolatey flavor, drizzle more melted chocolate over the chocolate croissants.
STORING: Keep the chocolate croissants in a container at a room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Allergy Info: These chocolate croissants are free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legume (soy or peanuts), nuts (not palm), and fish. If you don't have dairy allergy, you can go ahead and use the same amount of butter instead of palm shortening.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mini-Croissants (dairy-free)

Since it is nearly the end of 2015, I'd like to dedicate the last two posts to my favorite dessert, chocolate croissants. But first, let's learn how to bake regular croissants.

When I was on Camden's allergy free diet, I really missed eating bread. As I mastered the art of pizza dough and bao dough, I wanted to try croissant dough as well.

At first, I really hated making croissant dough. For a butter substitute, I used coconut oil which could be temperament. Can't expect much from oil when making the yeast dough, you know? The croissants were the thing of the past in my kitchen. It wasn't until I started using palm shortening for dairy substitute that I realized the potential of making a really flakey croissants again.

Sure enough, I was right. NOW, the croissant dough is super easy to make. Nothing more than making a pizza dough. The challenge may occur when folding laminated dough as the palm shortening may oozed out, especially in the Texas warm weather. But seriously, don't let that keep you from making some croissants from scratch. 
So this post will be about making the croissant dough. Then I will teach you how to make mini-croissants. Next week, I'll post a recipe for the chocolate croissants. So let's bake!!!
Dairy-Free Croissants Dough
3/4 cup (6 oz.) coconut milk  (105° to 115°F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup (7 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 - 1/4 cup (1 - 2 oz.) palm shortening
  1. In a large bowl, mix the milk, yeast, and sugar. Set aside until the mixture is foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on a room temperature.
  2. In another bowl, sift together the flour and salt.
  3. Add the flour to the yeast mixture.
  4. Mix until the dough is formed.
  5. Knead the dough on the non-stick mat until it comes together, about a minute.
  6. Place the dough back into a bowl and allow it to rest to double its size, about an hour, depending on a room temperature.
  7. Once ready, knead the dough again. 
  8. Place the dough on the non-stick mat. Dust the dough with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  9. Roll the dough out to about 9 by 15 inch (original size). TIP: No need to be accurate as the dough will need to be measure and cut to size.
  10. Spread the shortening over the left half of the dough, making sure to leave about 1/2 inch boarder (see picture 1). NOTE: I use about 1.5 oz. palm shortening. The more shortening, the more flakey the croissants will be.
  11. Fold the other half of the dough over to shortening.
  12. Press to seal the edges.
  13. Fold it again from the short side.
  14. Roll out the dough to the original size, careful not the allow the shortening to ooze out of the dough. TIP: During the summer, place the dough in the fridge for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow the shortening to harden a bit.
  15. Fold the dough half way then roll out the dough to the original size. NOTE: As the dough is folded over and over again, the dough will have more layers. When baked, the layers will puff up and create that classic croissant layers.
  16. The dough is ready to use in making savory and sweet croissants.
makes 16

1 croissant dough
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Line the baking pan with non-stick mat or parchment paper. TIP: Be sure to use baking pan with rims so the melted shortening will stay inside the pan and not drip on to the oven floor.
  2. Roll the croissant dough out to 9 x 15 inch.
  3. Cut the dough into 8 equal part (see picture 2).
  4. For each square, cut it into 2 triangles.
  5. Starting from the long side, roll the dough upward to meet the short end.
  6. Place it on the prepared pan then curve the shape a bit to take on the classic croissant shape.
  7. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  8. Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. NOTE: In a hurry? Go head and preheat the oven while the dough is resting in the fridge (or at a room temperature during winter months).
  9. Once ready, preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
  10. Make the baking soda wash by dissolving the baking soda to warm water.
  11. Brush the baking soda wash over the croissant dough.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  13. Allow the croissants to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy them while they are piping hot or warm.
STORING: Keep the mini-croissants in a container at a room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Allergy Info: These mini-croissants are free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legume (soy or peanuts), nuts (not palm), and fish. If you don't have dairy allergy, you can go ahead and use the same amount of butter instead of palm shortening.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cranberry-Hazelnut Chocolate Muffins

Last week, Grandpa and I were chatting about breakfast sweets. What would be delicious, not too sweet, to pair with a cup of coffee?

We flipped through the William Sonoma's Essential of Baking and came across the picture of dried cherry-chocolate muffins. I told Grandpa that I baked these muffins before... two years ago... for Brek's school breakfast. So I convinced him to test this recipe again.

I substituted few ingredients to the original recipe. Instead of dried cherry (which can be pretty pricey), I added cranberry. For dairy free butter milk, I taught Grandpa to add vinegar to coconut milk. Substitute sunflower oil for melted butter.

I picked up a trick in baking with chocolate from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa's cooking show. She always adds instant espresso powder to bring out the chocolate flavor. I told Grandpa to test this out by adding a teaspoon of it.

How did the muffins turn out? Grandpa convinced that adding the instant espresso really did bring out the chocolate flavor. And the tart from the cranberries balanced well with the sweetness of the chocolate. Brek luvs the muffins too. He asked if he could have it for his school breakfast. Of course!!!

Please note that there will be enough muffin batter to make more than 12 muffins. Another option to leftover batter is to bake the mini muffins, baking them about 7-10 minutes. My kids luv anything mini. Not only of the cuteness but they are just the right amount for their little tummies. But seriously, I think they just luv the mini anything because of the cuteness.

Cranberry-Hazelnut Chocolate Muffins
adapted from William Sonoma's dried cherry-chocolate muffins
makes 12-14 muffins

1/3 cup (2 oz.) chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 oz.) sunflower oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 cup (8 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup (7 oz.) light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups (7 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup (2 oz.) raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
3/4 cup (3oz.) dried cranberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F degree. Line the regular size muffin pans with foiled cupcake liners. Set aside. 
  2. Place a chocolate chip in a large bowl and microwave it for 15 seconds interval until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Whisk in oil and sugar.
  4. Whisk in the vinegar and coconut milk until creamy. Set aside.
  5. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, espresso, hazelnuts, and cranberries.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture.
  7. Mix until just combine.
  8. Using a large scoop, divide the batter into a prepared muffin pan.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven until the toothpick comes out clean, about 17 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then let cool completely on a wiring rack. Enjoy them with that cup of coffee or a glass of milk.
STORING: Keep these cranberry-hazelnut chocolate muffins in a container for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: These cranberry-hazelnut chocolate muffins are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy and peanuts), and fish. To make them nut-free, omit the hazelnuts.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Mini Eclairs

Last year, I blogged about my egg salad puff, using choux or puff shells as bread. I made changes to recipe to make them savory, but it got me thinking.

I really luv those eclairs at the café, filled with creamy goodness and chocolate ganache on top. I made the sweet version of cream puffs before, but Brek didn't like it. He said that the puffs tasted plain. I agreed.

After looking at the choux recipe, all of the sweet ones have such a tiny amount or no sugar at all. I decided to test several recipes and came up with my own dairy free version. Adding sugar to the choux dough really elevates the sweets in the eclairs. My kids actually prefer eating the baked choux without the filling or frosting. Hey, less work for me, right?

Make sure to use coconut butter and not coconut oil as the butter has more body than the oil. And have a hand towel ready as it can get pretty messy eating these little sweets.

Mini Eclairs
adapted from Martha Stewart's choux
makes 20-25

1/2 cup (4 oz.) water
1/4 cup (2 oz.) coconut butter (not coconut oil)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2.3 oz all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
pastry cream
chocolate ganache
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Place a nonstick mat on a baking tray. Set aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan, whisk together the water, coconut butter, salt, and sugar.
  3. Bring the mixture to a soft boil.
  4. Add the flour and whisk while the pot is over a low heat.
  5. Once the flour mixture becomes a dough, turn off the heat.
  6. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  7. Once cool, add an egg.
  8. Alternating between a spatula and a whisk, mix the egg into the dough.
  9. Once the egg is mixed into the dough, add the second egg and repeat step 8.
  10. Transfer the choux dough into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip.
  11. Pipe the dough on to the prepared baking sheet into 3-inch log.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  13. Remove the éclair puffs from the oven and immediately split them to let out the steam. 
  14. While the éclair puffs are cooling, prepare the pastry cream and chocolate ganache as directed.
  15. Spoon the pastry cream and sandwich the puff.
  16. Drizzle with chocolate ganache. Enjoy!!! 
STORING: These mini eclairs taste best the day they are made. Keep the eclairs without the filling in a container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These mini eclairs are free from dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Apple Crisp

So a couple of weeks ago, I admitted that I hate baking pies. Yes, it is time consuming. I don't know about you, but I personally don't like the taste of pie crust.

For Thanksgiving, I baked an apple pie for dessert. Grandpa said the pie crust was really thick. See, I told you. I just don't like making or eating pie. That got me thinking. Why can't I just bake the filling. Really!!!

Lately, all I've been doing is thinking, thinking, thinking... how to adapt recipes. Way back when, I posted a coffee cake with streusel toppings. What if I just bake the apples with the coffee cake's streusel on top.

But the truth is I've been dying to use my cutest apple-shaped baking dish that I bought last winter. I hadn't had a chance to use it at all. Plus, it was also an opportunity to bake something new for breakfast. "What!!!" you said. "Apple pie filling for breakfast???" Oh yeah...

By the way, I woke up the next day, and the apple crisp was nearly sold out. YES!!! It was very tasty with crusty bread like ciabatta or baguette.

Apple Crisp
serve 4-6

4 cups (12 oz.) granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and large cubed
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1.5 oz.) sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 Tablespoons (0.4 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sunflower oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.
  2. Spray an 8-inch round baking dish with a cooking spray.
  3. Place the cubed apples in a prepared dish.
  4. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon. Then using your hands, coat the apples with cinnamon and sugar. Set it aside.
  5. In a small bowl, place all of the streusel ingredients and mix well.
  6. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the apples.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven until the apples are fork tender, about 30 minutes
  8. Allow the apple crisp to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at a room temperature.
STORING: Keep the apple crisp cover with a towel at a room temperature for a day. If there is any leftover, transfer it to a container and keep in in the fridge for up to a week.

Allergy Info: This apple crisp is free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thai Pumpkin Custard (Sankaya)

Since my parents arrived last month, we have been doing a lot of eating and discussing recipes. I mentioned to them that I would luv to learn how to make Thai desserts.

We came across the Thai pumpkin custard. I remember how much I luv the custard on top the coconut sticky rice. Since I bought a pumpkin, I decided to try steaming it with a custard filling. But the pumpkin itself tasted too plain. 

Grandpa told me that I used the wrong pumpkin. The pumpkin for the Thai pumpkin custard has to be Japanese pumpkin called kabocha squash. It has sweeter taste which compliments the coconut egg custard well. After grandpa bought the kabocha squash, I tested my Thai pumpkin custard recipe again. It was perfect... naturally sweet from kabocha squash and creamy custard with a hint of coconut aromatic (from the coconut sugar). Grandpa likes to eat the skin because, he told me, it has the most nutrients. I just want the custard!!!

I tested my Thai pumpkin custard recipe three times and all of the pumpkins broke after they were cooked. I'm still not sure why but maybe the pumpkin itself was too soft during the steaming process. Still tasty though. With that said, my instruction includes that the pumpkin sits on a plate while steaming. You got it. Just in case the pumpkin breaks, the custard will stay in the plate.

This is a great Thanksgiving alternative dessert to pumpkin pie. It is also a make-ahead dessert. I'm planning to make just the custard filling and spoon it on top coconut sticky rice. Heaven!!!

Thai Pumpkin Custard (Sankaya)
serve 6-8

1 small (2 lbs.) Japanese pumpkin (kabocha squash)
5 extra large eggs or 6 large eggs
1 cup (7 oz.) palm or coconut sugar
1 cup (8 oz.) coconut milk
  1. Hollow out the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place it on a baking plate with rim. Set aside.
  2. In a large (4 cup) measuring cup, whisk the eggs.
  3. Add the palm sugar and whisk until creamy.
  4. Whisk in the coconut milk.
  5. Pour the custard filling inside the pumpkin. NOTE: If there is any leftover custard filling, pour it in a baking cups. Steam as directed for about 15-30 minutes, depending on the amount of the filling.
  6. Place the filled pumpkin in a steamer. NOTE: I use this stacked steamer.
  7. Steam until the tooth pick inserted in the custard comes out clean, about an hour.
  8. Let the Thai pumpkin custard cool at a room temperature.
  9. Place it in the fridge to set, about 4 hours to overnight. NOTE: The custard needs to set so leaving it in the fridge overnight is highly recommended. If cutting into the pumpkin while it is still warm, the custard will fall apart.
  10. To serve, slice the pumpkin into wedges. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Place the Thai pumpkin custard in a container in the fridge for up to a week.

Allergy Info: This Thai pumpkin custard is free from or can be make without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts (not coconut), or fish.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Apple Hand Pies (dairy and egg free)

It's Autumn, and it is the time of year when I find myself in the kitchen... baking. The one thing I'd stay away from if I wanna bake is pie. They are time consuming to make. But a few weeks ago, I decided to bake apple hand pies. Hmm... didn't I just wrote that I don't like to bake pies?

Well, as it happens, my parents are visiting from Thailand. They've been craving a lot of desserts that can only be found here in the USA. My dad likes to have something sweet with his coffee in the morning. So I've been baking cookies, bars, bread, and scones. They are luving everything I bake. I was thinking what else they haven't tried. Pies.

I also baked apple hand pies to test the recipe. After moving into our new home, I have to retest all of my recipes as I am now using the gas oven. I know!!! Dilemma!!! After spending a lot of time rolling, cutting, filling, shaping the dough, I came to a conclusion that I do not like to bake pie. Hmm... that sounded like it came from Dr. Sues's book.

Well, even though the apple hand pies are time consuming to make, I have to say that they are hands down cute and delish. They are great make-ahead desserts. Freeze them up and when you're ready to bake them, just follow the baking instruction. During that busy Thanksgiving dinner, make some of these hand pies... add your own spin on the filling too. My apple hand pie recipe is the same as 4th of July hand pies.

Apple Hand Pies
make 5-6 hand pies

Puff Pastry Dough:
1 cup (4 oz.) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz.) organic palm shortening
1/4 cup (2 oz.) ice water

Apple pie filling:
1/4 cup diced apples
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Baking Soda Wash:
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or a nonstick mat. Set aside.
  2. Making the dough by combining the flour, salt, and shortening, using a fork.
  3. Add half tablespoon of ice water at the time.
  4. Knead the dough until it comes together. Set aside to relax the dough a bit.
  5. For apple pie filling, mix all the ingredients together. Set aside to cool.
  6. Roll the dough out to a half inch thick.
  7. Using a round cookie cutter, stamp out the dough. TIP: This is where you can get pretty creative. I decided to go with a 3-inch round cookie cutter. The shape of the hand pies is up to you
  8. Place about 1/2 Tablespoon full of apple pie filling.
  9. Please it in the middle of a dough.
  10. Brush the dough around the filling with the cold water.
  11. Place the other dough on top, be careful to keep the filling in a dome shape.
  12. Using a fork, crimp the edges of the dough to seal the filling.
  13. Using a spatula, move the hand pies on to the baking sheet. NOTE: If the pie dough is too soft, especially on a summer day, refrigerate the hand pies for about 5 minutes. Then move the hand pies to the prepared baking sheet.
  14. Make three small slits on each hand pie.
  15. Freeze the hand pies for at least 30 minutes. TIP: These hand pies can be made ahead. Keep them frozen until ready to bake.
  16. When ready to bake the hand pies, preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
  17. Take the unbaked apple hand pies out of the freezer.
  18. In a small bowl, microwave about 1/4 cup of water until warm, about 30 seconds.
  19. Stir in 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  20. Brush the baking soda water on each pie.
  21. Sprinkle the raw sugar all over the top of the pie. NOTE: This step is optional but the raw sugar will add shines and crunch to the hand pies.
  22. Bake in the preheated oven until gold brown, about 15 minutes.
  23. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer them to a wiring rack to cool completely.
STORING: Keep them in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to a day or in the fridge for up to a week.

Allergy Info: These apple hand pies are free from dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nut (not palm), and fish.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Garlic Bread (dairy and egg free)

A few weeks ago, I received an email from King Arthur's Sunday round up recipes. The picture of the pull-apart bread was so mouth watering that I had to click on the link. After reviewing the recipe and pictures of how-to, I came up with my own version. Just because...

After serving the garlic bread to my munchkins and their friends, they asked for more. I think that means the garlic bread got the stamp of approval. Well, next time, I better bake at least three batches.

I baked this bread using a muffin pan. When serving to kids, I like to make everything individual for easy handling. How about baking this garlic bread for your Thanksgiving dinner. I know I will... and for Christmas dinner, for New Year.... Actually, I'll make this garlic bread every time I serve pasta.

Garlic Bread (dairy and egg free)
inspired by King Arthur's pulled-apart bread
makes 9 individual garlic bread

1 my bao dough's recipe
1/4 cup (2 oz.) organic palm shortening
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dry oregano leaves
Any cooking oil
  1. Make the bao dough according to my recipe instruction.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the shortening, garlic powder, salt, paprika, and oregano. Set aside.
  3. Spray a cooking oil on to the muffin pan. Set aside.
  4. When the dough is ready, divide it into 9 equal parts, about 2.5 to 3 ounces.
  5. With each dough, knead and roll it into an oval shape. NOTE: No need to be perfection with the rolling of this dough. They will be folded and stuffed into the muffin pan anyway.
  6. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the garlic spread on to the dough.
  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 3 equal parts.
  8. Sandwich the dough so that the garlic spread is in the inner layers.
  9. Fold and fit the dough into the prepared pan.
  10. Allow the dough to proof for 15-20 minutes, depending on the room temperature.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
  12. When the dough is ready, bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  13. Allows the garlic bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer them to a plate. Enjoy them with your pasta meal or just snack on them.
STORING: Keep the garlic bread in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Wrap the bread in foil and warm it in the oven under a boiler until warm, about 7-10 minutes.

Allergy Info: My garlic bread is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hazelnut Cookies (gluten free)

The thing about baking is if I only need to use an egg yolk, I'm stuck with the egg white. That is exactly what's been happening to me lately. Need one large egg yolk. Then I'd scramble around trying to find something to bake with just one large egg white. I usually end up baking meringues, which are always welcome in my home.

In the 500 Cookies, I was a bit confused with a recipe called macaroons because I thought macaroons are more like nuggets. The picture in the book gave me the impression that they were just normal cookies. I went ahead and tested this macaroons recipe because it was in fact the first recipe I came across that day that only used egg whites.

After baking them, I came to realize that these cookies shouldn't be called macaroons at all. They were more like macarons. So what's the difference? From my understanding, macaroons are like nuggets, usually made using coconut flakes. Macarons, however, are puff up cookies, crunchy on the top and chewy at the bottoms. For the perfect macarons, the cookies should have ruffles at the edge of the flat bottoms. Trust me when I said that macarons are super difficult to bake. I'm still perfecting my recipe, and that's going on six months already.

The first time I baked these hazelnut cookies, I noticed that the tops were thin and crunchy. Think of it this way, if I press down on the top of the cookie, the top would crumble. This is the very characteristic of macarons. The bottoms of my hazelnut cookies were quite chewy, almost like an wet, unbaked dough. I didn't like that at all. The cookies were also super sweet.

For my second attempt, I lowered the sugar content, baked small dough, and baked a little longer than before. Hollow and crunchy top. Perfectly chewy at the bottom. AND the cookies turned out to be a round perfect two bites size. Skip the real macarons and bake these hazelnut cookies. They are super easy to prepare and bake. But the best part? I now know what to do with the leftover egg white.

Hazelnut Cookies (gluten free)
adapted from 500 Cookies' macaroons
makes 12

1/2 cup (2.5 oz.) raw hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 large egg white
1/3 cup (2.5 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 Tbs. rice flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line a baking pan with nonstick matt or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Finely chopped nuts. TIP: I use mortar and pestle to finely pound a few nuts at a time. Another successful method is pounding the nuts inside a sandwich bag with a wooden rolling pin.
  3. Add sugar to the egg white.
  4. Whisk until it is creamy.
  5. Add rice flour to the egg mixture.
  6. Whisk again until creamy.
  7. Using a spatula, fold in the nuts.
  8. Using an extra small scoop, place the batter in a prepared pan, about an inch apart.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven for exactly 8 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat but leave the cookies to finish baking, about 20 minutes more.
  11. Carefully, remove the cookies from the nonstick matt and place them on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!!! TIP: Feeling adventurous??? Dip the baked and cooled hazelnut cookies in a melted chocolate. Yes, everything does taste better with chocolate.
STORING: Keep these hazelnut cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: These hazelnut cookies are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, and fish.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Molded Chocolate

All I can say is... the endless possibilities of candy making if there is a bag of chocolate in my pantry. Seriously!!! All I need is variety of candy molds.

So two weeks ago, I posted an easy no baked snacks using melted chocolate. This post is even easier. I figure why not make my own chocolate candy. And it doesn't get easier than pouring the melted chocolate into different molds. They  are also perfect for lunchbox treats.

After making many molded chocolate, I prefer using silicon to plastic molds. For one thing, they are easier to release the chocolate treats. But these silicon molds are hard to find and much more expensive than the plastic ones. There are so many options out there, so choose any mold that is within your budget.

Molded Chocolate 

1/2 - 1 cup chocolate chips (semi sweet, dark, or white)
Varieties of candy molds
  1. Set the molds in a baking tray and set them aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl.
  3. Microwave the chocolate chips for 30 seconds.
  4. Stir then microwave it in 10 seconds interval until the chocolate is melted.
  5. Spoon the melted chocolate into the molds.
  6. Tap the molds a few times to get rid of the bubbles.
  7. Place the chocolate molds in the fridge until the chocolate sets.
  8. Once ready, turn the mold upside down and tape it a few times until the chocolate falls off. Enjoy the chocolate as is or use it to decorate your something sweeter, like a Halloween cupcake.
STORING: Keep the molded chocolate in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks.

Allergy Info: Use the chocolates according to your food allergy diet. I continue to use Enjoy Life chocolate as my kids' current diet is to avoid dairy and legumes. Currently, I cannot find a dairy free white chocolate.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chocolate Brownies Cookies

The other day, I was craving brownies but just didn't have the patient to wait for them to bake. Instead of baking regular two bites brownies, I decided to bake them in a cookie pan.

Talk about fast. The cookies were done exactly ten minutes. I know, it's only 10 minutes faster than the two bites brownies. But really, I was hungry!!!

The chocolate brownie cookies had a slight crunch on the edges and moist in the middle. Luv them!!! My craving was satisfied.

Since these cookies spread while baking, using a cookie or whoopie pie pan helps hold the cookie shapes.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies
makes 12

1 my two bite chocolate brownies recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Set aside the cookie pan.
  2. Make my two bite chocolate brownies recipe with an option of adding in flax seeds, nuts, and extra chocolate chips. 
  3. Using a small scooper, place a scoop of brownie batter in each cavity of the prepared pan.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for exactly 10 minutes.
  5. Let the cookies cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Run the frosting knife around the edge of the cookie.
  7. Then using a spatula to pick up the cookie and place it in a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!!! NOTE: Be gentle when pickup the cookies as they are really soft in the middle.
STORING: Place these chocolate brownie cookies in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These chocolate brownie cookies are free from or can be made without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chocolate Covered Snacks

October, to me, is a start of baking and making a lot of something sweeter. For this month, I'd like to post easy sweets, starting of with chocolate covered snacks.

So think about it, what exactly are in those prepackaged snacks that have chocolate covered on them? Are chocolate covered raisins really just chocolate covered the raisins? Are chocolate covered pretzels really just that... chocolate covered pretzels? Nope.

Case in point, this is a copy and paste of ingredients from dark chocolate covered pretzels: Dark Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Milk, Soy Lecithin, Artificial and Natural Flavor), Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Corn Syrup, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Barley Malt (Barley, Wheat, Flour, Dextrose), Sodium Bicarbonate.
See, I told you. Do you really wanna eat them for snack? But what if you can make them at home with clean prepackaged foods? And no baking involved. Yes, I said it. No baking!!!
Two products you will need for the chocolate covered snacks. First, find your allergy free chocolate chips. Then find something that you want to cover with chocolate like pretzels, raisins, or nuts. Now let's covered them babies.
Chocolate Covered Snacks
makes as many as you like
1/2 cup or more semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
products such as pretzels, raisins, graham crackers, nuts, or marshmallows
  1. Place a nonstick matt or a parchment paper on the baking pan.
  2. Place about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl.
  3. Microwave it for 30 seconds, then 9 seconds interval until the chocolate is melted. NOTE: You can also melt chocolate chips using a double boiler. I prefer microwaving for speed.
  4. Dip your preferred snacks into the melted chocolate.
  5. Place the chocolate covered snacks on the prepared pan.
  6. Refrigerate them until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. TIP: Freeze them for at least 5 minutes to set the chocolate faster.
  7. Enjoy them for movie snacks, school lunch sweet treats, or just when the chocolate craving hits hard.
STORING: Store these chocolate covered snacks in a container in a fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pretzel Bites

After my kids had some pretzel bites at Red Robbins, I decided to make some at home.

I tested these pretzel bites before I tested the pretzel rolls. So if you already have the experience of making the pretzel rolls, these pretzel bites will be like "a walk in the park".

It wasn't very difficult to test out the pretzel bites recipe. Using my pizza dough, I tried two techniques to achieve both dark color and chewy texture. First technique is the soda bath, and the second is the soda wash.

I couldn't really tell if there was any difference between these two techniques, but Brek sworn that pretzel bites that had soda bath were chewier than the ones with just a soda wash. So let me know what you think.

Sprinkle the sea salt on the dough before baking is optional. We do eat a lot of salty snacks here so if I don't have to, I'd skip the added salt. Serving them with my honey mustard dipping sauce or a pasta sauce is optional but highly recommended.

1 my pizza dough recipe
4 and 1/2 cup water, divided
3 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon baking soda, divided
  1. Line the baking pan with a non stick matt or a parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the pizza dough according to my pizza dough recipe instruction.
  3. Once the dough is double its size, cut the dough into 6-8 equal part. TIPS: There is no need to be perfect when make the shape of the pretzel bites. Just make sure they are some what the same size.
  4. Knead and roll each dough into a rope.
  5. Then cut them about an inch cube and place them on prepared pan.
  6. Let the dough rest.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F degree.
  8. For baking soda bath, add 4 cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  9. Add the dough about 3-5 at a time.
  10. Let them bath in the soda water for about 30 seconds per side.
  11. Take the dough out of the soda bath to place them back on a prepared pan.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  13. For a baking soda wash, heat 1/2 cup of water in a microwave for 40-60 seconds.
  14. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and mix it well.
  15. Bruch each dough with the soda wash.
  16. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  17. Once they are baked, let them rest before serving. Enjoy them with your favorite condiments.
STORING: These pretzel bites are best kept in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These pretzel bites are free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. When searching for a pasta sauce, look for real ingredients. There shouldn't be any additive or preservative, like citric acids, added.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pita Bread (with or without pokets)

If you think pita bread is difficult to bake, you are... sorta correct. It's easy to bake the pita bread without pockets. It's tricky to bake them with pockets. Every time I aim to bake pita bread with pockets, it's been hits and misses.

Here's the tricky part. Pita bread with pockets is a puffy bread. So if the dough doesn't puff up during baking, it will just be... pita bread.

My tricks to baking pita bread are three things:

1. Never press the dough with your fingers. Have you ever bake focaccia? It's basically a large rectangular pizza but has finger impressions all over the dough. The dough won't rise (or puff) up during baking. For the pita with pockets, stretch the dough, using a lightly press rolling pin.

2. Let the dough rise at least 30 minutes. Because the dough is kneaded and rolled out, baking them right away will not allow the dough to puff up. It will become just a regular pita bread. Let the dough relaxes before baking helps the dough to puff up during baking.

3. Bake the bread in a high oven temperature. Since I use a baking pan instead of a baking stone, I can only heat the oven up to 400F degree. For baking stone, the oven can be as high as 500F degree. Remember to preheat the baking pan for at least 5 minutes before placing the pita bread dough on top of it. For baking stone, preheat it at least 20 minutes. I prefer the baking pan method as it is faster and safe money on utility bill.

Now that's discuss the high heat. Think about how the dough rises slowly at the room temperature. In the summer, the dough doubles in size rather quickly because well, the temperature is quite warm in my kitchen. Same idea with high heat oven temperature. The dough will rise super fast when it sits in high heat. Remember that everything needs to be HOT.

For a lightly brown color, use the baking soda water wash. This is optional but of course, we eat with our eyes. Lightly brown color pita bread will look tastier than dull beige color. Don't you agree?

Pita Bread
makes as many as you want

1 recipe of my pizza dough
all-purpose flour for dusting
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Make the pizza dough according to my recipe directions.
  2. When ready to bake the pita bread, place a nonstick matt or parchment paper over the baking pan. divide the dough into baseball size dough ball, about 3-4 ounces.
  3. Roll the dough ball out into a pie shape, about 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Place them on prepared pan.
  5. Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes or more. TIP: Touch the dough lightly with your finger to feel if the dough is soft to touch.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400F degree. Place the baking tray in the oven right away.
  7. After the oven is preheated, set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes to allow the baking pan to heat up even more.
  8. When ready, mix together the hot water and baking soda.
  9. Brush the soda water over the dough.
  10. Pick up the nonstick matt or parchment paper and place it on the preheated baking pan.
  11. Bake in a preheated oven until the pita bread puffs up, about 10 minutes.
  12. Allow the pita bread to cool completely before cutting it in half. Enjoy them with your favorite sandwich fillings.
STORING: Keep the pita bread in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Allergy Info: These pita bread is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pretzel Rolls

The first time my kids and I saw the pretzel rolls, it was like seeing a rainbow on a cloudy day. They looked tasty, and they were. The ingredients were simple flour, baking soda, yeast, salt. But a few months afterward, I noticed that the labeling changed, seeing more strange ingredient listed.

After I decided to stop buying any more pretzel rolls, my kids were pretty upset. What could they do? Well, they asked ME to bake some for them. The things I do for my kids.

Every time I test a new recipe, I always give a pizza dough or a bao dough a go. Both of these recipes are very versatile. Since the store bought pretzel rolls had the chewy texture, I decided to go with my pizza dough recipe.

Making the dough and rolling it out into pretzel shape was super duper easy. The challenge was getting the pretzel rolls to have that deep dark caramel color. I have a lot of luck with baking soda wash for other bread. Thinking about it, I figured to go with two baking soda washes. First, baking soda bath. Then ending with baking soda wash. And it worked!!!

Pretzel rolls looked so pur-tee. My kids were "ouuuu" and "ahhhh" when they saw the pretzel rolls. I was a proud mommy. But how did they taste? Chewy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Yup, just like the store bought pretzel rolls but with better ingredients.

Pretzel Rolls
makes 6 rolls

1 pizza dough recipe
8 1/2 cups water, divided
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon baking soda, divided
  1. Make the pizza dough according to my recipe instruction.
  2. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts, about 4.2 to 4.3 oz. each.
  3. While the dough rest, boil 8 cups of water in a heavy bottom pot.
  4. While the water is heating up, preheat the oven to 400F degree.
  5. Line a nonstick mat or parchment paper on a baking pan. Set aside.
  6. Once the water comes to full boil, add 5 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 tablespoon at a time. NOTE: Be careful with this step as water will bubble up every time the baking soda is added into the boiling water. If your kids haven't seen this, get them in the kitchen. It's fun to watch.
  7. Slash each dough with a sharp knife 3 times.
  8. Drop the dough into the boiling water, two at a time.
  9. Allow the dough to sit in the boiling water for 30 seconds per side.
  10. Take the dough out with a slotted spoon and place them in a prepared pan.
  11. Repeat until all the dough gets the baking soda bath.
  12. Place 1/2 cup of water in a microwavable bowl.
  13. Heat the water on HIGH for 40 seconds.
  14. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the hot water.
  15. Stir with a baking brush.
  16. Brush the baking soda wash on to the dough.
  17. Bake in a preheated oven until dark brown, about 20 minutes.
  18. Let the pretzel rolls cool in a wiring rack. Serve warm or at a room temperature. Enjoy!!!
STORING: Place the pretzel rolls in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days or in a fridge for 5 days. To reheat, wrap the pretzel rolls in foil. Boil for about 5 to 10 minutes until heated through.

Allergy Info: These pretzel rolls are free from or can be made without dairy, egg, corn, legume (soy), nuts, and fish.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sweet Fried Dough

For this month, I would like to post everything bread dough. Starting off with sweet fried dough.

There isn't much to talk about this particular post. I just happened to come across a cooking show, featuring Daddy's Fried Dough. He basically deep-fried pizza dough and served them with his chocolate sauce.

After watching it, I was inspired to deep-fry my own pizza dough. I tested this recipe over three years ago when I was in a make-everything-from-scratch diet. Drizzle with melted chocolate and ummm... so addicting.

When I plan to make pizza for dinner, I would take just enough pizza dough to make this dessert for our afternoon snack. Feel free to deep-fried the whole pizza dough recipe for a big crowd. Think of it this way, my sweet fried dough is an easy version of beignets. Powdered sugar is highly recommended.

Sweet Fried Dough
serve 3

10 oz. of my pizza dough recipe
safflower or sunflower oil for deep-frying
chocolate chips, melted
a lot of powdered sugar for serving
  1. Make a pizza dough according my recipe instructions.
  2. Place 2 inch of the oil in a heavy bottom pot.
  3. Heat the oil until the deep-frying thermometer reaches 350F degree.
  4. Place a wiring rack over a baking pan. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the dough into 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut the dough into desired shapes. TIPS: Sometimes I like to but the dough into short stripes. They are easier to dip into melted chocolate.
  7. Deep-fry the pizza dough until puffy and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. NOTE: Depending on how thick and the size of each piece of the pizza dough, the cooking time may varies.
  8. Transfer the deep-fried pizza dough on to the prepared pan and allow the oil to drain.
  9. Serve the fried dough with melted chocolate or powdered sugar. Enjoy them with a cup of hot cocoa (in the winter) or a lemonade (in the summer).
STORING: These sweet fried dough are best eating right away, but be careful as they are piping hot.

Allergy Info: These sweet fried dough are free from or can be make without dairy, egg, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.

Monday, August 24, 2015

S'more Chocolate Cake Doughnuts (dairy and egg free)

It was one of those days when I told my kids, "Let's make some doughnuts." And they came back with, "What kind?" Hmm... I had no idea.

So I used my Bao dough for yeast doughnuts. Then I decided to test a chocolate cake doughnuts without eggs, but they didn't turn out very sweet. The s'more flavor was an afterthought because I figured that the roasted marshmallow and melted chocolate would make this desert the sweet that it needed. I was right. Plus, it was super fun to have my kids roasted their own marshmallows over the stove top.

Alternatively, dipping cake doughnuts in a melted chocolate is pretty addicting. Either way, enjoy!!!

S'more Chocolate Cake Doughnuts (dairy and egg free)
makes 5 doughnuts, 8-10 doughnut holes

1 cup (4 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/8 cup (0.2 oz.) cocoa powder
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)
1/4 cup (2 oz.) coconut cream
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup (1.7 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 Tablespoon sunflower oil, more for deep-frying
1/4 - 1/2 cup melted chocolate
1/4 - 1/2 cup graham crackers, crumbled
5 - 10 maple syrup marshmallows
  1. Place a wiring rack on top of the baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Add 1 1/2 to 2 inch oil to a heavy bottom pot with a candy thermometer.
  3. Heat the oil to 350F degrees.
  4. While the oil is heating up, shift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and espresso in a medium bowl
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut cream, vinegar, oil, and sugar.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the cream mixture, until there is no lumps.
  7. Place the dough on to a non stick matt.
  8. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Using a doughnut cutter, cut out the doughnuts and the doughnut holes. TIP: Use a 2 inch diameter cookie cutter to cut out doughnut shapes. Use a large piping tip to make doughnut holes.
  10. Deep-free the dough holes for 2 minutes total and the doughnuts for 4 minutes total.
  11. Place the doughnuts and the doughnut holes on the prepared pan to drain the oil.
  12. Once cool, set them on a serving plate.
  13. Dip the doughnuts into the melted chocolate. Set aside. NOTE: Alternatively, drizzle melted chocolate on top of the marshmallows.
  14. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs.
  15. Roast the marshmallow over the stove top.
  16. Place the roasted marshmallows on top of the doughnuts or doughnut holes. Enjoy!
STORING: This s'more chocolate cake doughnuts can be kept in an air tight container at a room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Frozen Hot Chocolate

Years ago, Brek ordered a frozen hot chocolate for his afternoon snack. I was watching how the staff was making the drink and was super surprised with what she was blending together: milk, ice cubes, and a package of hot chocolate mix. Wanna guess how much it cost? Over four dollars. Yeah, no kidding.

I've been thinking about making my own frozen hot chocolate after that experience but never really gotten around to test a recipe. So a few weeks ago, I decided to make some, just because the outdoor temperature was hitting a 3-digit here in Texas.

I can't remember the last time I bought a prepackaged hot chocolate mix, but I knew it was a lot more than just cocoa powder. Something like "maltodextrin" or whatever the ingredients that I never knew existed.

So I just winged it, blending together nut milk, crush ice, cocoa powder, and a touch of instant espresso. For sweetener, I decided to try agave.

My frozen hot chocolate was an A-plus for awesome. The drink tasted just like hot chocolate. The favorite part was sipping the cold chocolate milk and getting the tiny ice. And you know what? It probably costs less than a dime.

This frozen hot chocolate is perfect for a hot summer day. Plus, school is almost in session so why not make this drink for your kids. If you ask me, I'd make this drink just for myself.

P.S. Camden would like to warn you to drink slowly to prevent brain freeze!!!

Frozen Hot Chocolate
serve 1 (or 2 for tiny tummies)

1/2 cup preferred milk (goat, nut, or rice)
1 1/2 cups crunch ice
1/2 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)
Agave to taste
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until crush ice is fine.
  3. Pour the drink into a glass and serve it with a big smoothie straw.
STORING: It's best to drink the frozen hot chocolate right away.

Allergy Info: This frozen hot chocolate is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Peachy Streusel

After my husband was laid off in June, Life has been kicking us nearly in every turn. Since I have to be even more frugal than before, I decide to eat off of my fridge, freezer, and pantry. So far, it's been pretty easy.

I came up with the peachy streusel recipe when I had the urge to bake something sweeter. A can of organic peach jumped out from the rest of pantry items. So I thought, "why not bake it in a dish and made some sort of streusel as topping." Done!!!

The canned peaches were a bit sour, so the flavor balanced well with the sweet streusel. My kids and I had it for breakfast. When I get a chance, I'd like to bake a cake and top them with these peachy streusel. It sounded like a winner combo for breakfast or snack.

I haven't tested this recipe with fresh peaches. But definitely give it a try and let me know. Feel free to double or triple the recipe to feed a big crowd.

Peachy Streusel
serve 4

3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons (1 oz.) sliced almonds
1 1/2 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon (0.3 oz.) rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 Tablespoons (1 oz.) sunflower oil
1 canned peaches (about 1/4 cup or 10 oz. of peaches)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Please a small (3.5 oz.) baking dish on top of the baking tray. Set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugars, almonds, flour, oats, spices, and oil. Set aside.
  3. Arrange peach slices into the prepared bowl.
  4. Place all of the streusel on top of the peaches.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven until the peaches are bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  6. Let the peachy streusel cool down a bit before serving. Enjoy.
STORING: Cover the peachy streusel with foil or a plate then keep it in a fridge for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: This peachy streusel is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), and fish. Omit the almonds if you have nuts allergy. For gluten free, substitute the all purpose flour with gluten free flour and be sure to use gluten free rolled oats.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pineapple Paradise

While I was at my friend's birthday party, I drank what was to me was some sort of juice. I found out later from her aunt that the juice was blended pineapple with added Sprite. Oh boy!!! I haven't had Sprite or any other soda for over five years.

My kids still raved about the pineapple drink so I decided to just wing it and make my version. Instead of Sprite, I added plain cold water. Since I didn't really taste the carbonation in the original drink, I figured water would do the trick.

When I make smoothie or other drinks, I luv adding agave as a sweetener. So adding agave to this drink really adds a touch of sweetness. You decide how sweet you want the drink to be. My version is not super sweet like its original.

My friend's aunt told me that she didn't strain the blended pineapple. I didn't taste the pulps at all. When I blended the pineapple, it came out very frothy. I left the juice as is and my kids didn't voice any complaints. Straining the pulp is optional. Better yet, add ice cubes with a touch of coconut milk and blend to make a pina colada smoothie.

So when it was time to name to drink, I asked Brek to do it. He suggested Pineapple Paradise. You know, like having this drink on a beach... relaxing and sipping. Paradise.

Double or triple the recipes to feed the crowd.

Pineapple Paradise
serve 4

1 pineapple
3/4 to 1 cup cold water
agave to taste
  1. Peel and core pineapple then cut it into large chunks.
  2. Place them into a blender.
  3. Add water.
  4. Blend until smooth.
  5. Add agave to taste.
  6. Chill until ready to serve.
STORING: Keep the pineapple paradise drink in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days. But seriously though. It tastes so good that we always finish it within a day.

Allergy Info: This pineapple paradise is free from dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Meyer Lemon Bars

I-spy with my big eyes... lemons in my neighbor's backyard. Lotsa of them. I asked Brek to ask Ms. Leta for a few. At that time, none of the lemons were ripen. One day, Ms. Leta came over with too many lemons. They were huge. I assumed they must be meyer lemons.

I wanted some to make lemon cookies. Because they were naturally grown, I could use the lemon zest. And I did. I made so many sweets from Ms. Leta's meyer lemons: lemon cookies, lemon macarons, lemon curd cupcakes, and lemon custard cake. I mean, there were just too many lemons.

Remember that meyer lemons are huge. I decided to flip through cookbooks and see if I could come up with a recipe using lemons. William Sonoma's lemon curd squares looked easy to bake. The based of the bars was pie dough. Thinking about making the lemon bars even tastier, I decided to test the recipe with my lemon cookie dough.

The meyer lemon bars turned out better than I expected. Not too sweet and definitely lemony flavor. The crunch of the lemon cookie dough was a good balance to the soft, velvety curd. I was super happy with the lemon bars that I asked Brek to deliver some to Ms. Leta and Mr. Joe (her son and Brek's swim teacher). Even after we shared the lemon bars with our great neighbors, we still had plenty. And guess what, my kids and I ate them all up for afternoon snack, nighttime snack... even for breakfast. Hey, why not!!!

Feel free to substitute meyer lemons with regular lemons. Better yes, use lime juice with pulp to make lime bars.

Meyer Lemon Bars
adapted from William Sonoma's lemon curd squares
makes 9 - 16 bars

1 lemony cookie dough recipe
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (5.2 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) meyer lemon juice with pulp
3 Tablespoons (1.5 oz.) coconut cream
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line the 8-inch square pan with parchment paper then spray the inside with a cooking oil. Set aside.
  2. Make the lemony cookie dough as directed.
  3. Press the cookie dough into the prepared pan, making sure the dough goes up to all the sides.
  4. Prick the cookie dough with a fork. NOTE: This method is to prevent the dough from puffing up during baking.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven until the edges are slightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  6. When done, take it out of the oven to let cool, about 15 minutes.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 325F degree.
  8. Make the filling by whisking together all of the ingredients.
  9. Pour the filling batter on to the cooled cookie.
  10. Bake in a preheated oven until the filling is set, about 25 minutes.
  11. Turn off the heat and open the oven door, leaving the meyer lemon bars sitting in the oven for another 15 minutes.
  12. Take the pan out of the oven and set it on a wiring rack to cool completely.
  13. Cut into 9 or 16 bars. Enjoy!!!
STORING: These meyer lemon bars taste best the day they are baked because the cookie crust is crunchy. But they can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: These meyer lemon bars are free from or can be make without dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts (not coconut), and fish.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Home Fries and Crispy Potato Skins

Cooking with potatoes is pretty easy. But let's face it, it can be boring if I don't cook it right. I mean, cooking crunchy potatoes is pretty tricky. I personally don't like to make French fries in the oven or deep-fryer. It's a challenge to make then crunchy. They also have to be eating right away, or they would get soaky.

My solution? Home fries. The potatoes are cubed. Cooking them is super easy. Just like my hash brown recipe, don't add any salt while cooking the home fries. They'd brown faster. Adding the salt or any other spices at the end of the cooking is best.

Since I read that potatoes are one of the dirty dozen, I've started using organic potatoes in all of my recipes. We don't eat that many potatoes here. So I'd buy maybe 3-4 potatoes per week. I like to make them as breakfast's side dish.
I usually peel the potatoes before cooking them. After reading that potato skins have to most fibers, I decided to wash and dry the skins and pan fry them. Whoa!!! Addictive. Plus, my kids luv them.

Home Fries and Crispy Potato Skins
serving 2-3

1-2 large potatoes, washed and peeled
safflower oil
salt to taste
  1. Set the wiring rack on a baking pan. Place a clean towel or napkin on a plate. Set them aside.
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes.
  3. Peel them and set the potato skins aside.
  4. Cut the potatoes into cubes, making sure they are the same size.
  5. Heat the frying pan at a medium-low heat.
  6. Add the oil just enough to cover the pan.
  7. When the oil is hot, add all of the potato skins.
  8. Pan fry them until crispy, one minute per side.
  9. Take them out to the prepared wiring rack and sprinkle with salt to taste.
  10. In the same pan, add the cubed potatoes.
  11. Cook the potatoes for 3-4 minutes. Flip over and cook 3-4 minutes more.
  12. Drain the home fries on the prepared plate and sprinkle with salt to taste. Enjoy them as a side dish.
STORING: If there is any left over home fries, store them in a container in a fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the heated frying pan until they are warm and crispy again.

Allergy Info: These home fries and crispy potato skins are free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Soft Serve Ice Cream

It's summer. It's hot. It's time for something sweet and cold. How about soft serve ice cream.

Last year, I saw a blog post raving about Yonanas, the banana ice cream maker. But for that much money, I just couldn't bring myself to buy one. A few months ago, I came across a recipe for soft serve ice cream which was made with one ingredient: banana.

Basically, process the frozen banana until soft serve ice cream texture is achieved. That's it. Cool, huh?

So I tested it out one day when it was getting warm early in Texas. The frozen banana turned out to be kinda grainy. By adding a little bit of coconut cream, the frozen banana was smooth, just like soft serve ice cream. I didn't even add any sweetener because the banana was already fruity sweet.

Play with the flavors too. I added chunks of homemade cookie dough (from my cookie recipe but minus the egg). One time I just added chocolate chips. I'm pretty sure the choices of the adds-in are endless. I'm planning to make mocha almond fudge ice cream some days. I luv the combination of coffee, almond, and hot chocolate sauce.

I have made a banana ice cream in advance. They won't be a soft serve because they need to sit in the freezer to firm up. But the blending of fresh banana is smooth and no coconut milk or any liquid is needed. I also add various adds-in before freezing it up. Microwave the ice cream for a few seconds to soften the texture.

One more thing. I've noticed frozen banana turned dark brown and didn't look very appetizing. It's better to make and serve this ice cream right away or keep it up to a week.

Soft Serve Ice Cream
make as much as you like

frozen banana, cut into small cubes
coconut cream (optional)
maple syrup or honey to taste (optional)
  1. Place the frozen banana in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, adding coconut cream 1/2 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Serve the ice cream in a cone or cup. Enjoy!!!
STORING: It's best to make and serve this soft serve ice cream right away. But it can be kept in a freezable container in a freezer for up to 1 week. Bring it to a room temperature for about 5 minutes if the ice cream is too hard to scoop.

Allergy Info: This soft serve ice cream is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), wheat, nuts, and fish. I heard that some bananas are gassed to make them ripen after they are picked. People with corn allergy mentioned that this process was making them very sick. So be aware of this when you buy bananas. Try getting organic and call companies for more info. Add the flavors according to your allergy free diet.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Indoor Grilled Steak

I hardly ever make meals using any type of beef. For one thing, it's really difficult for me to cook the beef tender enough for my kids to enjoy. 

When Camden said he wanted beef for dinner, I was browsing for a beef cut at a local grocery store that very day. I asked the staff regarding the cut and he suggested Kobe beef. But that was $14 per pound. Yikes!!! So he recommended the second best, top sirloin steak, which was about $7 per pound. Ok, that was reasonable. I bought a slice, took it home, and really didn't know what to do with it. I decided to just grill it indoor. The beef came out juicy and tender. We were all able to enjoy it.

The second time I grilled it, it came out too raw. Must be a thicker cut. So I cooked it longer. Then it was too well done and was too dry. I asked my husband, the grill-master in his own right, about the cooking time. He told me not to over cook it. So I began my adventure of perfecting an indoor grill steak.

A few things to remember. Before starting the indoor grilling, I make sure all the bedroom doors are closed. If the outside temperature is nice, get those windows open to get the smoke and the grilled smell out of the house. I've noticed that the smell won't linger.

Now let's get back to that steak. Be sure to set the steak at a room temperature. This way the middle of the steak won't be too cold when grill. I usually buy the steak and grill it that very day, so I never had to go through this step. Another thing is to make sure the grill pan is super hot. I want to sear the outside but warm and cook the inside.

Flavor the beef with only salt. I learned this technique from Tyler Florence. Because ground black pepper can burn in a hot grill pan, sprinkle it after the steak is cooked.

Timing is another factor. Depending on the thickness of the cut, I grill 4-5 minutes on the one side. After flipping it, I cook it for another 3-4 minutes. If I notice that the steak is too raw, I'd slice it thinly then zap it in microwave for 30 seconds.

Last but not least, let the steak rests. The steak will continue to cook and will come out perfectly juicy and tender. My kids and I prefer thin slice steak.

Now what are you going to do with the perfectly grilled steak???

Indoor Grilled Steak
serving 4-6 (for us, this makes about 3 meals)

1 pound USDA or grass-fed top sirloin steak
sea salt
cooking oil spray
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the grill pan on medium to high heat about 5 minutes.
  2. Deliberately salt the steak on both side.
  3. Spray the grill pan with cooking oil.
  4. Turn the oven vent on HIGH.
  5. Place the steak on the preheated grill pan.
  6. Grill it for 4-5 minutes.
  7. Flip and grill the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
  8. Place the grilled steak on a plate.
  9. Sprinkle ground black pepper on one side of the steak.
  10. Cover steak with a large bowl and let it rest.
  11. Slice the steak thinly and serve with your favorite sides. TIP: We eat them with tortilla, steamed or sticky rice, rice pilaf, and other veggies and fruits.
STORING: Keep the grilled steak in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Allergy Info: This grilled beef is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, wheat), and fish. Keep in mind that not all sea salt is corn free. Research and use the corn free brand. Also get a grass-fed cuts as they are most likely corn free and not that much more expensive than USDA cuts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mississippi Mud Cupcakes

While reading one of Baked cookbooks, I came across their Mississippi mud pie. Not only the picture of the pie looked so pretty, but the recipe itself was very inspiring. I thought and thought about how to modify their recipe to dairy free and came up with a solution.

Since I already made dairy-free brownies and chocolate pudding, I knew I could made this pie for my kids. For cookie crust, I used my cream filled cookie recipe. Keep in mind that there would be plenty of leftover cookie dough to make regular chocolate cookies. They freeze well so no worries. Creamy filling is not needed. If you wonder about the whipped cream, no worries. Most of the recipes that ask for whipped cream toppings, I usually substitute them with my marshmallow fluff.

There are a lot of recipes that go into these Mississippi mud cupcakes. So plan accordingly. I bake cookie and brownies in the morning. While those are baking, I make chocolate pudding and place it in the fridge to cool down. When I'm ready to serve the cupcakes, I whip up a fresh marshmallow fluff. I assemble the cupcakes then call for my kids to devour. Afternoon snack done... and messy!!!

Mississippi Mud Cupcakes
inspired by Baked Explorations' Mississippi mud pie
makes 6 regular size cupcakes

Cookie Crumbs
1/2 cup of my chocolate cookie dough recipe

1 recipe of my brownie bites recipe, without the nuts and chocolate chips

Chocolate Pudding
1 recipe of my chocolate pudding recipe

Marshmallow Fluff
1 recipe of my marshmallow fluff recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degree. Line the muffin pan with foil liners. Set aside.
  2. Make the chocolate cookie dough as directed.
  3. Place 1-1 1/2 Tablespoons of cookie dough into each foil liner.
  4. Using the back of the Tablespoon, press the dough into the bottom, bringing the dough up to the side.
  5. Bake the cookie dough in a preheated oven for 8 minutes
  6. While the cookie is baking, make the brownie batter as directed.
  7. When the cookie is baked, take it out and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
  8. Using a small scooper, divide the brownie batter evenly on top of each baked cookie.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven until the toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  10. While the brownies are baking, make the chocolate pudding and marshmallow fluff.
  11. Place them in the fridge to cool down. TIP: Chocolate pudding can be made a day in advance, keeping it cold in the fridge. It's best to whip up fresh marshmallow fluff when ready to serve.
  12. After the brownies are baked, set it aside to cool completely.
  13. Place the chocolate pudding in a piping bag and pipe it on top of each brownie.
  14. Top each chocolate pudding with marshmallow fluff. Enjoy.
STORING: Because the marshmallow fluff may separate, these Mississippi mud cupcakes taste best on the day they are made. Without marshmallow fluff, the cupcakes can be kept in a container in a fridge for up to 3 days. With out both pudding and marshmallow fluff, the cupcakes can be kept in a container at a room temperature for 3 days.

Allergy Info: These Mississippi mud cupcakes are free from dairy, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish. I made these Mississippi mud cupcakes while my kids were on dairy and legume free diet. Eggs were not questionable in their diet back then. If you want to make these cupcakes egg free, make slight changes to the listed recipes. For the chocolate cookie dough, substitute 2 tablespoons of applesauce for a large egg. For the brownie bite recipe, substitute 2 teaspoons of baking powder for a large egg. Chocolate pudding is egg free. Use my maple syrup marshmallow recipe instead of marshmallow fluff. See, just because you have a strict diet doesn't mean you can't have something sweeter. Enjoy.