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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brownie Cookies

I'm alive.

My long absence may have made you think otherwise, but I'M HERE!!  Just insanely busy with life, but at not one moment did I forget about this blog.  It's just that trying to find time to post AND bake/cook is quite a struggle. 

But I'm here.  Here to share a special brownie cookie recipe, which I'm sure any of you chocolate lovers would love.  Before I do, as always, I'll update you with the recent happenings in my life.

As far as wedding details go, we've gotten a lot more done since the last time I've mentioned it.  Dress is ordered, tuxes have been chosen, menu is tentatively set, and our DJ/lighting is set.  That last one was a major relief!  DJs can make or break a wedding, so we are thrilled to have found someone professional, who we think will set the perfect tone. 

I can't remember if I mentioned before, so I'll mention again.  Our colors will be navy blue and blush pink. Not bright pink, not Barbie pink, not hot pink...it has to be super light, subtle blush pink.  Here are a few photos of inspiration to get you up to date with my "vision."

Navy blue and blush pink invitations.  Image from 100 Layer Cake

Navy bridesmaid dresses.  Image from Wedding Chicks.  Photography by  Paul Von Rieter

Feminine, blush pink shoes are a must!  Image from Bridal Guide

Romantic hairstyle.  Image from Wedding Chicks

Gray tux.  Image from Style Me Pretty  Photography by Meg Smith Photography

Blush pink flowers, candles, simple centerpieces.  Image from Bridelicious
As for what's left to do, we need to figure out the floral situation.  We're not sure if we want to use a florist for flowers...expect for maybe a few key pieces, like an arrangement for the ceremony or wedding party table.  I've considered making the bouquets myself and maybe simple table arrangements.  We're not about to throw down major $$ on giant flowery centerpieces that no one will probably even remember.  So for now, that's still on our "to-do" list.

Also, Tony and I went to my friend's birthday dinner a few weeks ago.  She's Morrocan, so she wanted to celebrate her birthday by having us join her for a traditional Morrocan meal at Marrakesh, a restaurant in Costa Mesa, CA.

Myself, Tony, and the birthday girl
 I have to admit, before that night, Tony and I have never tasted Morrocan food before.  However, we're always open to trying new things, and after dinner we concluded that Morrocan food is REALLY good!  The food was delicious, and the atmosphere of the restaurant made it a very fun experience for the both of us.  The menu consists of several prix-fixe meals to choose from, which is great because you get to try a lot of different things. 

We ended up eating the traditional feast:  kabobs/sausage served over couscous and vegetables with Harisa sauce on the side, and our entrees, lemon chicken and honey lamb (which I highly recommend!).  All of the prix-fixe dinners are served with freshly baked rye bread, vegetable soup with lentils, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans, three traditional Morrocan salads (all of these were amazing), Bastilla:  filo dough stuffed with chicken, eggs, and almonds, covered with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and for dessert, fresh mint tea and homemade baklava. 

Three traditional salads:  marinated eggplant, tomatoes & cucumbers, and spiced carrots

Kabobs:  lamb sausage and kabobs served with coucous, vegetables, and Harisa sauce

Bastilla:  filo dough stuffed with chicken, eggs, and almonds baked and covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon

Homemade baklava--my favorite!!
In addition to the great food, there are also belly dancers that periodically perform throughout the restaurant, making it an entertaining experience as well.  The two dancers who came over to our table area were very friendly, and encouraged some of the Overall, it was a great meal, lots of fun, and Tony and I want to go back again sometime so we can enjoy it all over again!

Some of the dinner group, plus the dancers

After talking about Morrocan food, it would be most appropriate to post some sort of Morrocan recipe, but let's be honest here:  I have no idea how to cook Morrocan food.  I just eat it.  So instead, I'll be posting a recipe that is completely unrelated but so good that it doesn't matter:  these awesome brownie cookies I made a couple weeks ago.

I had my eye on these brownie cookies for a while ever since I spotted the recipe on Erica's Sweet Tooth.  I've actually tried similar cookies before from a local bakery, so when I saw these on Erica's blog, I knew I had to try them and see how they compare.

These brownie cookies are exactly as you would imagine.  The tops are nice and crackly like a brownie would be, and slightly fudgy and chewy in the middle.  With such a rich, chocolate flavor, they are perfect for dunking in a big glass of milk.  Best of all, the recipe is incredibly simple--as long as you have the ingredients on hand, you could be enjoying these cookies within the next hour!

If some of you like chocolate, but wouldn't call yourself a "chocolate-lover," you might want to try baking these cookies without the addition of chocolate chips.  The chocolate chips really take the chocolate flavor to another level, but may be much for those who prefer a lighter flavor.

Brownie Cookies
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 30-40 large cookies
Recipe from Erica's Sweet Tooth, originally adapted from Pure & Yummy

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocoalte, chopped
3 cups (18 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until butter and chocolate are completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.  Scrape down the sides if necessary and beat well.

Add the chocolate mixture and mix until incorporated.  Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with a rubber spatula (optional).

Use a medium ice cream scoop or large spoon to form balls of dough and place 1-inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes

FINALLY, another cupcake recipe...right?  I know, it's been a long time since my last post, let alone my last cupcake recipe.  I haven't had much time to cook or bake lately now that I'm so busy in school, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to bake some cupcakes for my supervisor, Paulette's, birthday!  Rather than my usual large cupcake batches, I made a simple dozen for Paulette and I to enjoy, so it only took a couple hours out of my day.  After school yesterday, I was able to run home and whip up these birthday treats, and still make it to Starbucks in the afternoon to catch up on studying.

So before I dive into the details of the cupcakes, let me catch you up on the happenings in my life.  Let's see...since the last time I posted, we learned a lot of things in nursing school; things as simple as making an occupied bed, bathing, and checking vital signs to more complicated procedures such as changing sterile dressings (for wounds) and inserting a nasogastric tube.  And that's only been 3 weeks...I can't imagine what the next 3 will bring.  We also had our first exam already!  I'm happy to report my FIRST grade in the nursing program is an A!  Hopefully I can manage to keep it up throughout the semester...I do know that things are not going to get any easier, only harder and more complicated!

Also, on September 8, Tony and I went to a concert together.  We went to the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre in Irvine to watch one of Tony's favorite musical performers, The Dave Matthews Band!  Although I'm familiar with their music, I wouldn't claim myself a DMB fan, but I have to say, I really did enjoy the concert and seeing Tony fulfill something he's always wanted to do. 

Pre-concert tailgating in the parking lot!  FYI Budlight is not my first choice of beer, but in this case, that's what we had!
Now, as I type this second half of the post, my supervisor and I just finished one of these cupcakes and I have to tell you, they are SO good! 

This cupcake recipe is actually a special recipe from Joy of the well known blog, Joy the Baker, the popular and hilarious Joy The Baker podcast and the recent author of a best-selling cookbook, Joy The Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.  I tried searching for the recipe on her website so I could link to it, but she doesn't have it posted.  I actually received this recipe from Joy herself, in a special "surprise" gift box. 

You see, Joy has this really cool subscription-based gift program set up with Lost Crates where you can purchase a gift for $25 plus $5 shipping on either a monthly or quarterly basis, and receive a special suprise gift box picked out by Joy The Baker herself!  It could contain anything she chooses, such as things for your home or awesome foodie gifts, and the majority of the time, the contents in the gift box actually exceed the $25 price you pay!  I love Joy's food taste and quirky interests and personality, so I always know that I will be pleased with the surprises I receive. 

I've received several gifts through Joy's Lost Crates subscriptions, such as a Rifle Paper Co. gift box which included a notecard set and paper floral coasters, a delicious vanilla-themed box, with high quality vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, gluten-free flour, and a recipe card for "Banana Breakfast Dumplings with Vanilla Bean Maple Butter," but I think the gift including this cupcake recipe card was my favorite, by far!

This particular box included items from the famous King Arthur Flour Company, focusing on their premium chcoolate ingredients!  The box included double-dutch process cocoa, REAL Guittard chocolate sprinkles (jimmies), espresso powder, colorful cupcake liners, a $10 gift card and catalog for King Arthur Flour, AND best of all, a recipe card for these amazing cupcakes, signed by Joy!

Front of recipe card
Back of recipe card

 If you like cute, quirky things for your home and anything food-related, you would LOVE receiving these surprises from Joy.  If you're interested in trying it out, you can read more about it and sign up here.

I am so glad I made the time to try this cupcake recipe because the flavor is perfect!  I'm a huge coffee lover, so this new recipe is perfect to feed my coffee addiction (yes, I have an addiction, even more so than usual and I blame school for it!).  At first I wasn't sure if the coffee flavor would be strong enough when paired up with the rich chocolate cake, but I think the flavor balance is just right.

The chocolate cake recipe is ridiculously dark, rich, and sooooo good!  Tony taste-tested one last night, and said that the chocolate cake recipe for this cupcake is one of the best he's tried (and trust me, he's tried a lot!).  The high quality double-dutch process cocoa, espresso powder, and buttermilk, I believe, are the keys to this recipe's success.  You can really taste the difference when using good cocoa powder.  I'm all for cupcakes using Hershey's cocoa powder, but if you want rich, gourmet flavor...you just have to use the good stuff!  Plus, the espresso powder; it really makes the chocolate flavor pop, and then the buttermilk keeps the cake nice and moist!
If you love coffee and chocolate, then this is the recipe for you! 

Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  12 cupcakes
Recipe from Joy The Baker

For the cupcakes:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup double-dutch cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp instant espresso
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the coffee buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp hot water
1 tsp instant espresso
Chocolate jimmies (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over-mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners and bake in oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and one cup of the sugar.  Beat until thick and incorporated.  In a small bowl, stir together vanilla, hot water, and espresso powder.  Stir until powder is dissolved.  Add the remaining sugar and espresso mixture to the bowl.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Spread (or pipe, sparingly) onto cooled cupcakes.  Top with chocolate jimmies, if desired.


  • If you wish to pipe on your frosting with a decorating tip and like lots of frosting, you may want to double the frosting recipe.  I used one batch of frosting for these cupcakes, but piped VERY sparingly.  The frosting is sweet so I personally don't think more than one batch of frosting is necessary, but do whatever suits your own taste!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vegetable Cheese Soup

Doesn't this bowl of soup look good?  I sure think so!  Maybe it has to do with the fact that Labor Day just passed--the unofficial "end" of summer, so I'm beginning to anticipate cold-weather foods.  I don't know about the weather where you are, but here in Southern California, it's been a little too hot for me!  Tony and I did try to make the most of our nice weather over Labor Day weekend.  Our friends from San Diego came up to Long Beach with their family to visit, so we spent most of our time eating good food, enjoying a few "adult beverages" and relaxing at their hotel pool.


Halle, Tony, and I riding the ferris wheel at The Pike in downtown LB

Tony gave Ethan his first set of golf clubs

Even though summer weather has its perks, I can't wait to welcome the autumn breezes and cool nights, and start enjoying the variety of comforting fall foods. In fact, I was absolutely thrilled when I went to Starbucks yesterday to see that the ever-so-delicious pumpkin spiced latte is back!  I usually stick to iced coffees, not the sweet, special drinks, but for a pumpkin spiced latte, I make an exception.  I was a happy camper yesterday, enjoying the (freezing) cold AC in Starbucks, nose stuck in my nursing textbook, with my pumpkin spiced latte in hand. 

This is my life now.  Study study study....

Although it's still warm here in California, I know many others have been experiencing wet weather lately so this soup recipe from Lulu The Baker may come in handy!  Even if it's still hot where you live, the cool weather will be here before you know it.

This Vegetable Cheese Soup is a great recipe for cold weather.  It's easily adaptable to whatever vegetables you prefer, and is a great option for picky eaters.  If you want more protein, feel free to throw in some chicken or any other type of meat.  If you don't like carrots, leave them out, or add another vegetable instead.  I'm sure corn would be great in this soup!  Whatever adjustment you make (or maybe none at all), this is a great base recipe suitable to anyone's tastes.

Vegetable Cheese Soup
Print this recipe
Yield:  6-8 servings
Recipe from Lulu the Baker

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender.  Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes.  Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes depending on how small they were chopped.  Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened.  Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through.  Stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Spiced Honey Glazed Chicken

I can't believe this day is finally here.  Today I completed my FIRST day of nursing school.  Many, many days full of studying and sleepless nights lie ahead, but despite the stress that will come, I'm currently excited about what the next two years will bring!  My uniform is ready for use and most of my first semester books are purchased.

These huge books are only some of the books I'll be studying out of this semester.  I still need to purchase my two pharmacology books, so imagine two more books in that stack.  Thankfully, we don't have to bring ALL of them to class, but we still need several...and each book weighs a ton!  Especially those bottom two; they're like encyclopedias!

Hopefully, as I progress through the program, I'll still be able to cook meals at home every once in a while.  I have quite a few recipes ready to post, but (if you haven't noticed) I'm posting them slowly so I don't run out, just in case!

 For today's recipe, I'm going to share one that I discovered on Pinterest.  This Spiced Honey Glazed Chicken is pretty easy to make, and ends up as really delicious, flavorful chicken.  The sugars in the honey crisp up under the broiler, making a sweet and spicy coating for the juicy chicken.

Tony and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and it was a great last-minute way to cook the package of chicken legs and thighs that I had recently purchased.  One of my favorite things about this dish is that it uses very few ingredients, all of which are pretty common and can probably find in your pantry.  We ended up pairing this chicken with a mushroom-potato side dish, but feel free to pair it with any side of veggies or carbs...or both!

Spiced Honey Glazed Chicken
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 4 servings (8 chicken thighs)
Recipe from Nutmeg Nanny

1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 thighs per pkg)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to broil setting.

Mix spices together in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix honey and cider vinegar in another small bowl and set aside.

Un-tuck chicken thighs so they are flat.  Rub chicken surface with spice mixture, lay flat onto sheet pan.  When all chicken has been seasoned, put pan under broiler.

Cook chicken for 5-7 minutes on one side and flip.  Cook for 5-7 more minutes on other side.  Flip again, then baste the chicken with the honey mixture, making sure to completely coat chicken.  Return pan to oven and let cook under the broiler for a few minutes, until the honey starts to thicken up and glaze.

Remove chicken from oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

If you do not want to use your broiler setting or have a gas oven, you can bake the chicken at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Are you a fan of chickpeas? 

I'm not.  At least, not whole chickpeas.  I would only enjoy chickpeas blended into a fine paste and made into hummus.  However, I bought a few large cans of chickpeas once to make some hummus, only to find that hummus is REALLY hard to make without a food processor. 

Yeah.  I made it with a blender.  It worked...but only after struggling to mix and blend, mix and blend, mix and blend, an insane amount of times, which by that time I was so frustrated with the whole process that I swore to never use a blender again to make hummus again. 

Oh sure, the hummus turned out pretty tasty, and the cost of making it homemade is way cheaper than storebought hummus...but rather than struggle every time I crave hummus, I've figured I'll just someday purchase a food processor.


And, let's just say that "someday" has not come yet.  So I'm stuck with a couple cans of chickpeas in my pantry, and I don't want them to go to waste...so what do I do??  Make ROASTED chickpeas!

Yes!  Finally a solution to my overabundance of canned chickpeas.  This recipe does not require a food processor, eliminates the drab flavor and unappealing texture of chickpeas that I dislike, and results in a crunchy, flavorful snack! 

These Roasted Chickpeas are incredibly easy to make.  Simply toss the rinsed, drained chickpeas with olive oil and a special blend of spices, then roast on a sheet pan in the oven until done! 


And delicious. 


Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Print this recipe
Recipe from Our Best Bites, originally adapted from What's Gaby Cooking

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat.  Set aside.  Drain and rinse chickpeas and pat dry with paper towels.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the spices and olive oil.  Toss the chickpeas in the spice mixture until coated evenly.  Spread chickpeas over a lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.  Use a spatula to toss the chickpeas, then return pan to oven and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy.  Allow to cool before serving.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust

Hi everyone!  I have a great recipe to share with you all today.  Doesn't that slice of quiche above make you hungry?  It is so good, filled with bright green pieces of broccoli and gooey, cheddar cheese, and suprisingly, the crust is not your traditional butter-filled crust.  This crust is actually made with brown rice!

Before I share the recipe, I'll also update you all with some news in my life.  Let's see...within the last week I've finally taken my final and finished my first nursing class!  This is great news, because it means I finally get a 2 week break from school.  I can now focus a little more time on updating this blog and catching up on my blog-reading. 

Also, Tony and I have been trying to fit in time for our wedding "to-do's."  We still have a few vendors to find, and details to plan but so far I'm not feeling too much pressure!  One thing we did finally get around to is mailing out our save-the-date cards!  I'm so happy with the way they turned out:

We used one of our engagement photos for the card.  We have some other AMAZING photos taken by our talented photographer, Wes Hamachi, which I will eventually share with you in the future.  Wes focuses a lot more on landscape photography, but he's a great engagement photographer as well!  Check out his website to see some absolutely beautiful landscape photos.

Now, as for this quiche, most of the ingredients in it are pretty typical (egg, cheese, veggies) but what really makes this quiche unique is its crust.  The crust is not your typical buttery pie crust.  Instead, this crispy crust is made out of brown rice!  I was immediately intrigued with this idea when I first discovered this recipe because not only did I not feel like going through the efforts of making and rolling out pie dough, but the brown rice is a healthier option.

See how crispy the brown rice turns out?  This is due to the twice-baked method.  The crust is pressed in the pan and baked for about 7 minutes, then the filling is added and baked again for another 35 minutes.  It results in a crisp golden crust.  Oh, and if you're wondering what those dark grains are within the crust, I actually didn't use pure brown rice.  I used leftover rice from dinner the night before, which I got from Trader Joe's and is described on its package as a "brown rice medley" so there were some other grains in this crust as well...and it still turned out delicious!  I hope you enjoy this recipe and are inspired by this new brown rice crust method.

Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust
Print this recipe
Yield:  6 servings
Recipe from A Little Bit Crunchy..., originally from Closet Cooking

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
5 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces and blanched
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 green onions, sliced
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix the rice, finely grated cheese and one egg in a bowl.  Press the rice mixture into a pie plate, about 1/4-inch thick. 

Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven until the edges and bottom start turning golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Mix the remaining eggs, milk, broccoli, sharp cheddar cheese and green onions in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven until golden brown and set in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Hello all!  What a busy July last month was!  I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted a new recipe here.  With my nursing class over the summer and preparations for the first clinical semester, my schedule has been jam-packed with assignments, appointments, and physicals.  Over this past month, I had to order and exchange my nursing uniforms, get a background check, take a drug test, register for ati (online nursing education system), take my respirator fit test, go to a CPR class to become CPR-certified, get my physical, get my immunizations and titers, and take the 2-step TB test.  All of these things were so time-consuming, and I had to fit these appointments in between work hours, my summer class, and school assignments...but I can thankfully say I'm DONE!

...Well, almost.  I still have class on Monday and my final on Wednesday, but after turning in my last major project yesterday, I already feel so much relief!  Once the semester is over, I get two weeks off and then, like I've been telling everyone, I basically will have no life for the next two years!  For the first half of the semester, I will have classes Monday through Friday, and also will have to fit my work hours within that schedule.  Once the second half of the semester starts, I'll start going to the hospital to get the real hands-on experience...that will be fun, but so tiring!

Needless to say, I will be incredibly busy, but even so, I'm super excited to start the Fall semester.  Since I'll have some time these next few weeks, I hope I can post a lot of recipes to make up for my future absence here on the blog.  (Don't worry, I'll still be here maintaining the blog, but definitely no guarantees my posts will be frequent).

So, for today's recipe, I'm going to share a zucchini muffin recipe that I made last week.  One of my co-workers at work has a zucchini garden, and was nice enough to share some of his fresh zucchinis with my supervisor and I.  I, of course, was thrilled; I love any type of homegrown vegetable, especially zucchini.  However, I knew that Tony would not be as excited.  Tony's not a big fan of zucchini.  He won't even eat it in traditional zucchini bread...something I love!  

Although I was happy with eating them myself, I felt a little bad that Tony couldn't enjoy them the way I could, so I decided to search for a zucchini recipe he might like.  It didn't take long for me to stumble on this muffin recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures.  Shredded zucchini, cocoa powder, AND chocolate chips, all packed into a muffin?  This was exactly what I was looking for.  Sure, it probably isn't the healthiest muffin, and with all this chocolate, I don't even know if I would consider it a good breakfast choice...but these muffins are a great afternoon snack!  Best of all, Tony enjoyed them, despite the fact that they were made with zucchini!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
Yield:  about 12 muffins
Recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, originally from Gourmet, September 2009 (on epicurious)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 lb zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 cup, or 1 small zucchini) 
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla on medium speed until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips (batter will be VERY thick, don't be alarmed).

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared liners.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

So, it's been almost a month since my last post...I'm sorry!  Things have been hectic--I hope you've all had a much more relaxing month.  Ever since getting accepted into the nursing program, I've been overwhelmed with "to-do" lists.  My first nursing course already started back in June, so I've had plenty of homework and tests to study for, and I had my mid-term on Wednesday.  I've also been busy getting other things done to prepare for clinicals--titers and immunizations, uniforms, supplies, CPR certification, background check, registration fees...and then let's not forget wedding preparations!  We have our wedding venue booked, engagement photos taken, and a tentative guest list, menu, etc.  Now we just need to find a few more vendors and then figure out the little details.

Amongst all this commotion in my life, I also had a recent cupcake order for a baby shower.  The request was for a dozen strawberry cupcakes to sample that were pink and girly.  So, I made a dozen cupcakes with different styles to choose from and I think they turned out great!  Not only did they look pretty and feminine, but they also tasted amazing.  I've made several types of strawberry cupcakes in the past, but I think this recipe is my favorite. 

I actually took the cake recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Sweetapolita, and used a strawberry frosting from another one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats.  In the past, I've tried strawberry cake recipes using just strawberries but I've noticed that it tends to result in a weak strawberry flavor with a gummy cake texture--definitely not fluffy and cakey enough to get my approval.  I've also tried cake recipes with just strawberry flavoring or powder, but it usually ends up with an artificial taste.  This particular recipe uses a combination of both fresh strawberries and strawberry-flavored Jell-O powder.  Together, I think the ingredients add up to a stellar strawberry cupcake!  On top of this great strawberry cake recipe, the frosting is also pretty phenomenal.  This strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream resembles the sweet, creamy taste of strawberry ice cream.  It's to die for!

As for the decorations, I used Wilton candy melts and simply free-handed various designs onto waxed paper.  Once dry, the designs could be carefully peeled off and applied to the cupcake tops.  However, this method is a little time consuming.  If you decide to make these and don't feel the need to impress (with looks, that is.  The taste will definitely impress!) you can simply decorate with a strawberry half or slice.  It still makes a pretty decoration and also reflects the flavor of the cupcake.   

Strawberry Cupcakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 28 cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita and Annie's Eats

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 (3 oz) package strawberry flavored gelatin, such as Jell-O
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup of milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry puree, made from fresh or frozen strawberries (if frozen, let come to room temp before using)

For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and pureed
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the cake:
Puree strawberries in food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla.  Set aside.

Sift and whisk dry ingredietns together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy--about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the milk mixture and dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and hand mix just enough after each addition to incorporate (do not overmix).

Divide the batter between cupcake liners.  Bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven to let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting:
Place the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Puree until completely smooth.  Set aside.

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 Tbsp at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, don't be alarmed--continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (it may even take longer, but don't worry.  It WILL come together; just keep beating!).  Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

To frost, fill a piping bag with frosting.  Use your preferred decorating tip to pipe frosting onto cupcakes.  Garnish as desired.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chubby Hubby Cupcakes

Happy Father's Day!  In honor of this special day, I have a special cupcake recipe to share:  Chubby Hubby Cupcakes!  I first heard of these cupcakes through my favorite blog, Annie's Eats.  This cupcake flavor is actually inspired by the famous Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream flavor, Chubby Hubby.  The cupcake involves a malted vanilla cake with a chocolate pretzel filling, topped with a fluffy peanut butter frosting and garnished with a chocolate pretzel.

About 60 of these cupcakes were made for another cupcake sale at work, along with 50 of the previously posted (and very popular) Irish Cupcakes.  This sale was Father's Day themed, and since we met our previous fundraising goal for LLS, we decided to start donating our funds to another charitable cause, Dharma Rescue.

Dharma Rescue is a local nonprofit organization which focuses on finding homes for unwanted cats and dogs.  They rescue many animals from the shelters who would otherwise be euthanized, and are especially committed to rescuing seniors and special needs animals who would have little chance of survival without their help.  One of my acquaintances at work is very involved with this organization and fosters a lot of the rescued animals until they can find permanent homes.  I have always grown up with an animal in our household, so I am very supportive of any type of animal rescue groups.

If you are also an animal lover, please visit the website and read about their cause, or even consider making a small donation.  The website provides information about all of their current foster animals looking for homes, and tells their stories.  It also provides specific information of the needs of the animals, so if you do make a donation, you will know exactly what your money is being used for.  Since it's such a small, locally-based organization, even a small donation can make an incredible difference.

As for these cupcakes, I think they are the perfect flavor to celebrate Father's Day.  Not only is the name fitting, but what father doesn't like chocolate pretzels and peanut butter?  I must mention, I did make one short-cut, by purchasing packaged chocolate covered pretzels instead of drizzling chocolate on my own, but hey, you would too if you had to make 60!  Either way, they still tasted great, and maybe next time if I'm feeling up to it I'll make my own chocolate drizzled pretzels.  After pairing these with the boozy Irish Cupcakes, our sale really had something to suit everyone's tastes.  Unfortunately, my father lives many miles away so I was unable to give him a Chubby Hubby cupcake this weekend, but if could, I'm sure he would love it!

Chubby Hubby Cupcakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 30 cupcakes
Recipe from Annie's Eats

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup malted milk powder
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pretzels

For the frosting:
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp heavy cream (optional-see notes)

To garnish:
Mini pretzels drizzled or covered with chocolate

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Gradually add in the sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each addition.  Blend in the malted milk powder.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and mixing well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated (do not overbeat).

Divide the batter between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

For the filling:
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Add the cream to a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate.  Let stand 1-2 minutes, then whisk together until a smooth ganache forms.  Whisk in the butter 1 Tbsp at a time until completely incorporated.  Let stand at room temperature, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened.

To fill the cupcakes, scoop or cut out the centers of each cupcake.  Then fill each center partway with ganache.  Top off each ganache center by sprinkling with the chopped pretzel pieces.

For the frosting:
Combine the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth.  Mix in the confectioners' sugar and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the vanilla and cream (if using) just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with your preferred decorating tip, and frost cupcakes as desired.  Top each cupcake with a chocolate covered pretzel.


  • Heavy cream may be omitted from the frosting recipe if concerned about refrigeration.  The purpose of the cream is to enhance the fluffy texture, but may be compensated by whipping a few minutes longer to incorporate more air into the frosting.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Almond Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Hello everyone.  After a short break, I'm back!  These last few weeks have been so busy!  Let me fill you in briefly:  my spring semester finally ended and had a celebratory night out with 15 other classmates, I saw my cousin who is in the Air Force and was in town from Germany, I took my TEAS test (nursing entrance exam), waited patiently not very patiently, checking my mail multiple times a day for the last two weeks and....I finally heard back yesterday!  I GOT IN!  So in a little over 2 years from now, I will be a Registered Nurse!  I am SO excited!!!!!!!!!!!  These last few months have been full of blessings and life changing events, and I couldn't be more thrilled with it all.  :)

 Since I'm finally back to blogging, I might as well fill you in on my grandma's 90th birthday luncheon that occurred during my visit back home. We held it at a local Chinese food restaurant that my family has been going to for years, Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant.  I used to go to this restaurant all the time growing up, and over the years, my family has grown to love not only the food, but the quality service received from Elaine.  Elaine and her husband are the owners of the restaurant and always go out of their way to make customers feel welcome.  Whenever my mom orders Chinese food from Hong Kong, Elaine always remembers to ask about "Grandma," and genuinely cares about the family's health and well-being.  For this reason, Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant was the perfect place to hold my Grandma's birthday luncheon.

Clockwise, starting from bottom:  Grandma, my Uncle Larry, Mom. myself, and my sister, Sumiko.

It was so nice to see the family gathered for this special occasion.  With many of us grown now and pursuing our own careers, it's very rare for us to have these opportunities to see each other.  My grandma was very happy to see so many family members who made the journey to celebrate her special day, and I was equally pleased to spend the time with her.  I hope it won't be long before I can visit my family and see my grandma again. 

An old photo of my grandma, when she was around my age!

I also attended a friend's wedding during my visit back home!   Weddings are always a lot of fun, and now that I have my own wedding plans underway, it was a whole new experience!  I was definitely making some mental notes for my own.

Tony and I, posing for a photo during the wedding reception

Now, I have quite a few recipes in my queue to share with you, but for today I'll leave you with this:  Almond Crusted Pork Tenderloin.  This pork tenderloin recipe really impressed me, not only with its flavor but with its beautiful, colorful presentation.  The homemade pico de gallo topping really brightens the dish and gives it a fresh look and taste.  Plus, the pork is encrusted with almonds, so it was a no-brainer for me.  I LOVE almonds, and this almond coating gave the pork a nice, crunchy outer crust.

Since it's just Tony and I in our home, we were able to enjoy the leftovers for a second night, and it tasted just as good as the first.  However, if you do have a larger family or are planning on having guests over for dinner, I highly recommend this dish.  It will really impress the guests and is great to share with good company.  It's the perfect weekend dinner.

Almond Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Print this recipe
Yield:  4 servings
Recipe originally from Taste of Home magazine, Dec/Jan 2010 issue

Vegetable oil spray
6 ounces slivered almonds (1 1/4 cups chopped)
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
2 egg whites
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin

Pico de gallo:
2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a roasting pan with foil and place a meat rack on the foil. Spray with vegetable oil spray. Coarsely grind almonds in a food processor. Mix almonds, garlic and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Set aside.

Whip egg whites to form soft peaks. Remove visible fat from the pork. Roll the pork in the egg whites and then in the almond mixture. Roll once more in the egg whites and in the almond mixture again. Place pork on the rack and press any remaining almonds onto the pork.

Roast 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer reads 160°F. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Mix the pico de gallo ingredients together. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with pork. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Orange Cashew Brown Rice

Did anyone else struggle as much as I did to get up this morning?  I can't believe we're back to work again...Memorial Day weekend went by way too fast!  Although it flew by, I did manage to get a lot of things done this weekend.  We recently gained access to a storage area right outside of our apartment (which I am just thrilled about!), so I spent a lot of time doing some major spring cleaning.  It's so nice to not have our bikes sitting by the entryway of our apartment anymore, and to have cleaner, more organized closets inside our home!  Not to mention our home is now spotless...not a speck of dust in sight.  Perfect.

Aside from cleaning, we also did a few other fun things.  We spent Sunday afternoon on the beach with some friends, and later spent time with my cousin, who's in the Air Force and has been stationed in Germany for the past few years.  We were lucky that he was able to have time to come visit us during his trip back home, so we took him out to dinner Sunday night.  We tried a new gastropub on 2nd St in Long Beach, called Tavern on 2.  If you're ever in the Long Beach area I always recommend 2nd St, a neigboorhood full of great restaurants and bars, but after this weekend I think I may just start spefically recommending Tavern on 2!  The food there is great, and if you like beer, this place has a lot of unique options to choose from. 

We first shared the Beef Oxtail Poutine: tender beef oxtail braised in burgundy red wine reduction, cheddar cheese curds, duck fat fries.  Then I ordered the Short Rib Burger, which was amazing: Niman Ranch short rib braised in amber ale, melted gruyere cheese, grilled mushrooms on a brioche bun.  My cousin and Tony both ordered the Ahi Tuna Burger: Szechwan peppercorn crusted ahi tuna, Asian slaw, Japanese cucumber wasabi sauce on a brioche bun.  Doesn't that make your mouth water?  And it tastes just as good as it sounds, if not better. 

My AMAZING short rib burger
Now, lets get to the main attraction:  this Orange Cashew Brown Rice.  This Orange Cashew Brown Rice consists of cashews, peppers, onions, and mandarin orange segments, combined with brown rice cooked in an orange juice broth.  This rice recipe was originally from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I read Mel's blog on a weekly basis so when I saw the number of positive comments and reviews, I was convinced to put it on my dinner menu.  Although this recipe originally calls for basmati rice, I'm always trying to eat healthy and use brown rice whenever possible, so I altered the recipe slightly so I could use my brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's.

For this particular meal, I prepared a simple citrus baked fish (seasoned with just salt, pepper, and lime zest) to serve with the rice.  However, you can switch it out to whatever type of protein you prefer.  Any type of lean protein such as fish or chicken would pair well with this dish, and only needs to be mildly seasoned.  After all, the rice dish is really the main attraction here.  The mandarin oranges and cashews add a unique quality to what would otherwise be a typical rice dish.  I enjoyed it with the substitution of brown rice, but I am curious to try the original version.  I'll post the healthier brown rice version here, but if you'd like to try the regular basmati rice recipe you can get it at Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Orange Cashew Brown Rice 
Print this recipe
Yield:  Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, original source adapted from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces
1/4 cup chopped yellow peppers
1/4 cup chopped red peppers
3 green onions, minced
1 (8-ounce) can mandarin orange segments, drained well

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the water, orange juice, orange zest, olive oil and salt to a boil.  Stir in the rice.  Return to a boil, then lower heat to a gentle simmer and cover.  Simmer the rice for 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed.  Let stand, covered, off the heat for 5-10 minutes.  Scrape the rice into a large bowl.  Add the cashew pieces, peppers, and green onions.  Season with salt and pepper and add the drained orange segments to the rice, folding them in gently to prevent the oranges from breaking.  Serve immediately.


  • If you don't have brown basmati rice on hand, you can try substituting with another variety of brown rice.  Just adjust the rice-to-liquid ratio and cook time according to the package directions.\