Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Garden Muffins (or Cake)

Every week I meet with a couple girl friends for "breakfast with the ladies" as my husband likes to call it for some yummy eats and good conversation.  A while back Jen made this wonderful fool-proof 'garden cake' that the toddlers loved.  Who knew there were carrots and zucchini in it?!  Here's the recipe for anyone who wants to adapt their own version.  I swapped out some ingredients that I didn't have on hand and subbed in some other ones, so I guarantee it is "VERY flexible" as Jen told me.

Some of my changes...
Since I was only able to harvest one pathetic little zucchini from my garden, I had to use more carrots.  I also used half oil and half applesauce and then only added 1/2 c. granular sugar since the applesauce would provide a little sweetness and I didn't want my cake too sweet.  Somehow, I ran out of whole wheat flour, so I had to use the good old all-purpose variety.   No flax seed in house, so I added wheat germ instead.  Also, I didn't add any fun stuff like dried fruit or coconut because I didn't want any picky eaters to shy away.  For the topping, I didn't add nuts, but did throw in about 1/4 cup of oats...just because.

Garden Muffins (or Cake)  (as given to me by Jen)

1 large zucchini, grated and patted dry
2 large carrots, grated
1 c. canola oil (or you can sub some or all with applesauce)
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3/4 c. granular sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix well.

1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour
1/2 c. oat bran or oats
1/4 c. crushed flax seed
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly and add to zucchini/carrot mixture.

1 c. raisins (or cranberries, chopped dates, or chopped prunes)
1 c. walnuts or pecans
1/4 c. shredded coconut

Fold in the fruit and nut mixture.

Streusel Topping
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 T. butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans (opt.)

Cut butter into mixture, until well combined, then set aside.

Spray muffin pan/bundt pan with cooking spray. Spoon batter into muffin cups and fill 3/4 full or pour into a bundt pan.  Top with streusel topping. Bake at 350 F, 25-30 minutes for muffins or 1 hour for cake.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Sweet chewy yumminess.

Need I say more? I didn't think so, well other than thank you to my friend Nicole for sharing this fabulous recipe with me!  In a pinch, this recipe is so quick to make and comes out perfect every time.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

1/2 c. peanut butter (any style)
1/3 c. butter or margarine (I prefer butter)
1  c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1  c. flour
1  t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 pkg. (6 oz) chocolate chips

Cream peanut butter and butter with an electric mixer.  Gradually add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Mix in vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to peanut butter mixture and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Spread in buttered 9" square pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool in pan on cake rack.  Makes 16  2 1/4" squares.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bulgogi (Korean BBQ)

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to live overseas in Korea for a few years while my father was stationed at Osan air base.  Many of my fondest childhood memories are of the experiences while living there, especially the food.  Here is a little bit about one of my favorite Korean meals, bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef).

One of the first things you notice when you step foot in Korea is the smell of garlic. It's on everyone's breath and seeping from their pores, literally.  It's in everything.  Maybe this is why to this day I can't have enough garlic in my foods. I love the stuff!  If a recipe calls for one clove, I'll throw in two or three. My husband will remind me when I've gone overboard with the garlic ;)  I love that guy.

I remember eating bulgogi at hole in the wall restaurants all over downtown Songtan, which is just outside the gates of Osan AFB.   The server would bring out tons of little dishes of 'things'...most of the vegetable variety.  I recall most of it being pickled or super spicy so I would just skip this stuff and wait for the main course.  The garlicky soy sauce marinated beef would be brought out and cooked on a grill right on your table.  Being about 6 years old at the time, I thought it was pretty cool to cook your own food right there in front of you!

Once the meat was cooked, traditionally you're supposed to assemble it on a lettuce leaf with steamed rice, red pepper paste (gochu-jang) and any of the assorted 'things' in those little dishes.  Whole garlic cloves were sometimes served and I remember my grandfather snacking on these tasty morsels until my dad asked him what the heck he was doing.  He was under the impression they were almonds.  Geez, I hope I never lose my taste buds!  

Bulgogi (Korean BBQ)
From my mom, Barrie
·       1 lb. beef, not too lean
·       2 T soy sauce
·       1 T sugar
·       1 T sesame oil
·       1 T sesame salt (ground sesame seeds and sea or Kosher salt)
·       1/8 t. black pepper
·       4 med green onions, coarsely chopped
·       3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
·       1 t. fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
·       2 T water, rice wine or white wine
Cut beef into thin slices about 2” square x 1/8 “ thick.
Marinate beef in remaining ingredients for up to 1 ½ hours. Grill (especially good over charcoal) and serve with:  Red leaf lettuce or kkaennip (sesame leaves)
Rice, Garlic slices, Namul (assorted marinated veggies), Koch’ujang

Marinated beef bulgogi.  I typically use flank steak sliced on a bias.

Bulgogi tastes best grilled, but when I'm feeling lazy I use the broiler. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oreo Fudge Ice Cream Cake

Easy and good, that's what I was after for my husband's birthday cake.  He loves ice creams cakes, so I thought this one looked really good and would be easy enough to complete during my son's nap.  I cannot say enough how easy this cake was to make.  Some might say it was a piece of cake ;)  All you need are 5 ingredients: 1/2 cup hot fudge topping, 1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, 1 (3.9 oz) package of chocolate instant pudding mix, 8 Oreo cookies, and 12 vanilla ice cream sandwiches.

Everyone really enjoyed this cake.  When we sliced it, it looked perfect, just like the picture on the Kraft website.   It had such a beautiful presentation.  (I forgot my camera, so I didn't get any pictures of my sliced cake, but trust me it looked great!)

Although the cake tasted great, I know it could have been better had I grabbed the regular full fat, full sugar ice cream sandwiches that I intended to buy.  In a whirlwind trip through Target with a tired kiddo, I grabbed the first box I found, which happened to be 'no sugar added'.  This essentially translates into 'no flavor' in my book.  Oh well, I'm sure I'll be making this again and will be sure to grab the good stuff!  I wonder how this cake would taste made with Klondike bars and Nutella instead of the hot fudge?  I just might have to try this out ;)

Fudge & Cool Whip; Add the pudding mix; Add the Oreo's;  All mixed up.

Layers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the Cool Whip 'frosting'.
For the complete recipe, click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Strawberry Pizza

Fresh, juicy, red strawberries. Finally, they're back in season!  Straight out of college, I got my first job in a town in Florida called Plant City.  It's claim to fame is being "The Strawberry Capital of the World".  I do have to admit, they were phenomenal strawberries. So now, every time I go to the supermarket to buy strawberries I look to see if they're from Plant City.  Most of the time they're not since I live in California.  When in season, the ones out here in Cali are good too, but there's just something about those Plant City strawberries that made them extra juicy and sweet.   If you happen to be in the area, the Florida Strawberry Festival goes on from March 3-13, 2011.  The California Strawberry Festival will be held May 21-22, 2011 in Oxnard.

Strawberry pizza, that's what I decided to make for our monthly bunco night.  I found the original version of this recipe in my favorite magazine, Cuisine at Home.  I highly recommend getting a subscription (and no, I was not paid to say this!).  I don't think I've ever been disappointed with any of their recipes.  Most of the time they aren't too weird either.  Some cooking magazines try to get too fancy and creative and have you running around to all the supermarkets trying to find obscure ingredients.  Not Cuisine at Home, they use every day ingredients, for the most part, to create mouthwatering recipes that are never to disappoint.

There were a couple things I changed.  For some reason, my shortbread dough was too wet so I had to add an extra 1/3 cup of flour.   It was enough extra flour to make it spreadable without making a gooey mess all over my hands.  Also, instead of using mascarpone cheese, I used a substitute I found on Judy's Kitchen that consisted of cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream.  It tasted great in the finished strawberry pizza.

I loved this dessert.  Next time, I think I'll make only half the amount of shortbread dough so that it is thinner.  A few friends and I agreed that we got full on the crust.  Regardless, it was still fantastic!
Spread dough out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spread cream cheese mixture on top of shortbread crust.

Fresh slice strawberries, mmm!

Strawberry Pizza....ready to cut and eat!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Pistachio Marble Cake

Chocolate Pistachio Marble Cake

I don't make cakes very often, but when I decide to make a cake, this recipe is my absolute favorite!  My mom used to make it every once in a while when I was growing up. 

Sometimes frosting is a good thing, other times (like this) it's so over rated.  Just a little sprinkle of powdered sugar is all this cake needs to bring it to absolute perfection.

I love this cake, not only because it is so simple to make, but because it is so moist and practically melts in your mouth.  Believe it or not, I used a boxed cake mix.  I know, I know it's hard to believe I didn't do things from scratch this time.  Therefore, I dedicate this cake to all my readers (all 12 of them, who say they're too busy to bake. :)  Although, I did use my homemade chocolate syrup in place of the Hershey's stuff. ;)  It worked out beautifully!
Just a few simple ingredients, mix, and pour.

Add the chocolatey goodness, pour, then bake.

Marbled chocolate pistachio cake....yummo!

Click to ENLARGE. 
To print, left click> file> print. To save file to your computer, right click on image, then "save image as".

Sweet as Sugar Cookies is having a linky party, and I was invited!  So, stop by and check out all the other fantastic looking treats!  There are so many delicious treats it's hard to decide which one I should make first! Click on the button below to check it out...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Italian Beef Stew

On occasion, I'll make a hearty beef stew, mainly to try out a new recipe in hopes that I'll finally find my 'go-to' beef stew.  To my disappointment, recipe after recipe fails me in the flavor department.  I'm not a picky eater by any means, but one thing I despise is bland food that a little salt can't cure!  I was just about to give up on ever making another lousy beef stew until I came across this Italian Beef Stew in the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine.   It sounded good enough and I happened to have everything on hand, so no need to run to the store. I just love that!  Well, sort called for fresh herbs, but I just subbed dried herbs at about 1/3-1/2 the amount the recipe called for.

The recipe said it would take about 40 minutes of hands on time and about 2 hours of cooking....well mine cooked for a total of 3 hours, so it was a good thing I started things early.  I felt like little miss Susie homemaker prepping for dinner at 9am, but my proactive stew prepping paid off later in the afternoon when my toddler began to act up because he 1) woke up at 4:14am and 2) wouldn't nap.  Oh the joys of toddler-dom!  (By the way he finally crashed on the living room floor around 5pm watching Disney's Cars with the back of his eye lids).

The stew cooked and cooked and cooked until the meat got to the desired tenderness (3 hours total).  Finally, the moment of truth.  Did my days worth of cooking pay off? Yes indeed it did!  Both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.  Since I wasn't expecting the stew to be so good, I didn't get many photos, but all you really care about is the finished product, right?! Delish!

I paired this stew with some homemade Focaccia bread, which didn't take too much time to make since I used a bread maker to do the kneading and rising.  It came out just alright, so I won't bother providing the recipe unless someone really wants it.  As you might have guessed, it was lacking in flavor even with some great French fleur de sel (hand harvested sea salt) on top :).

Click here for the Italian Beef Stew recipe from the January 2011 issue of Cooking Light.

Next time, I hope to make a slow cooker adaptation of this recipe.  If I succeed, I'll post an update.