We just turned F-O-U-R + Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes!

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

It’s our B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y!!!!!

That’s right Friends, The Culinary Chronicles turns four this week and we’re all grown up now!

Um, ok…kind of.

Not really, but you get my drift.

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

This past year has been filled with tons of incredible milestones for the site from new partnerships with fantastic brands, recognition from respected media and of course, the release of my cookbook this past summer.

Phew!

What a ride!!!

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

A huge— GINORMOUS THANKS to you all for the continued support and readership. I know I can be quite random and silly at times. So….

Mahalo!

Grazie!

Merci!

Cảm ơn!

Hannad! …………That’s elvish btw. #LOTRnerd

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

If I could, I’d send each of y’all a big slice of birthday cake to celebrate our blogiversary. But until I can figure out the logistics behind all of that, I’d like to virtually share with you these Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes.

A vanilla chiffon cake filled with a slightly tart, fresh strawberry compote and topped with mounds and mounds of strawberry swiss meringue buttercream.

They’re light, flirty, and just Pretty in Pink.

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

And with that folks, I can’t wait to see what crazy and delicious Foodventures this upcoming year has in store for us. Here’s to many, MANY more to come!

Cheers!

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Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Filling:
2 cups fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup water
2 pinches of salt

Batter:
2¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Martha Stewart):
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1¼  cups sugar
1½ cups unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1½ cups fresh strawberries, pureed

Garnish:fresh strawberry slices
sprinkles, nonpareils, etc.

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Prepare the filling. Place the strawberries and sugar in a small pot and cook over medium low heat until the juices begin to release. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, water and lemon juice. Add the mixture to the strawberries and stir in to combine. Continue cooking and stirring the strawberries until it’s thickened to the consistency of a jam. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Allow to cool completely.

In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in another bowl. Put the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed until ingredients are light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Mix in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, mixing until the batter is well mixed, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Continue beating the mixture for another few minutes to ensure that the batter is thoroughly mixed. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans for five minutes, and then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.  Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Switch to a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Begin assembling the cupcakes. Using a pairing knife, piping tip, apple corer, or very small round cookie cutter (I used a small biscuit ring), cut out a small cavity in the cupcake. Take a pairing knife to help pop out the center. Fill each of the cupcakes with a heaping teaspoonful of the strawberry compote. Replace the small piece of cake to cover the filled centers.

Fit a piping bag with a decorative tip and fill with the buttercream. Top each of the cupcakes with large swirls of buttercream and adorn with berry slices, sprinkles or other decorative pieces.

Macadamia-Java-Chip Ice Cream for King’s Hawaiian

Macadamia-Java-Chip Ice Cream

I scream, You scream…

We all scream for Ice Cream!

With Summer in full effect, the heat has been blazing here in Southern California. Somewhat uncomfortable at times but it’s the perfect Ice Cream weather!

Channeling the flavors of the islands, I put together this onolicious Macadamia-Java-Chip Ice Cream for the King’s Hawaiian O’hana. The recipe is quite simple to pull together and is packed full of the balanced island flavors of coffee, chocolate, and rich macadamia nuts. Click here to find my post and recipe for the KH O’hana as this is the perfect way to end the week.

Happy Aloha Friday Friends!!!

Cuban Family Dinner + Mojito Cheesecake

Mojito Cheesecake

We’ve been on a Latin and Spanish kick with our Sunday Family Dinner themes. But since eldest Seester and her fam were soon headed to Miami for an extended vacay, what better menu for June’s Fam-Din than Cubano?

Plantains

As usual, we started off our dinner prep with a few (okay, more than “a few”) bright and refreshing cocktails. Mojitos for the adults and virgin Valencia Orange-Mojitos for the kiddos.

Mojitos

Eldest Seester, N, kicked off dinner with a duo of Empanada appetizers. She made the dough out of flour, salt, baking powder, butter, sugar, eggs, and cream cheese. It was surprising to see how easy the dough came together but it was truly outstanding! The cream cheese made the Empanadas incredibly flaky and rich. A total keeper!

She filled half of the Empanadas with roasted chicken, mushrooms, cumin and other layered aromatics. The other half was stuffed with a savory Ground Beef mixture.

I could nosh on these all day long. You could definitely make a double batch and freeze them to bake off on a rainy day. Perfect little party apps.

Empanadas

Next came my homage to the beloved Porto’s Bakery. If you’re from Southern California, chances are, you are well acquainted with the renown Cuban Bakery and Cafe. Not only do they make delicious Cuban inspired sweets such as Guava & Cheese Pastries, Tres Leche, & Flan but they also are the creators of some of my family members’ favorite cake–the Triple Chocolate Mouse Cake.

You can also satisfy your savory Cuban cravings at Porto’s by ordering their sandwiches (including a Cubano), soups, or my personal favorite– Papas Rellenas. Essentially, they’re a crispy mashed potato ball filled with a ground beef mixture of onions, peppers, and tons of spices.

We made them a tad smaller than the original version but other than that, I was quite pleased with the copycat recipe and thought it was pretty spot on. I’ll be posting a step by step on it soon but you can find the recipe I used here.

Cuban Potato Balls (Papas Rellenas)

And what’s a traditional Cuban meal without plantains?

My sis and niece made these Tostones by twice-frying plantains. They took slices of plantains that were about 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch thick and fried them until they were golden. Afterwards, they took a cleaver and smashed them to about 1/4 of inch. After being pan fried for the second time, they seasoned them with course sea salt and served them with a peppery garlic dipping sauce.

It’s incredible how starchy plantains are and, in my opinion, are more like potatoes than bananas.

Tostones

Seester, T, made a huge and I mean HUGE batch of slow cooked Frijoles Negro.

They had a wonderful, rich flavor to them and were thick…almost stew-like. She also made rice but I totally blew it and didn’t take a picture of it.

#fail

Frijoles Negro

And for the main course, Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo Sauce.

HOLY aromatic!

The moment we walked into T’s house, we were engulfed with the delicious scent of the pork roasting in the oven. She ended up doing a mash up of several different recipes she found but at the base of it, the marinade included tons of garlic, fresh orange and lime juices, fresh herbs and some spices. The Mojo was a pureed mixture of garlic, cilantro, serrano peppers, citrus juice, and olive oil.

It was surprising how much sweetness the fresh orange juice added but it was because of it that allowed the roast to become rich and caramelized.

Total winner.

Cuban Roast Pork with Mojo Sauce

And finally, dessert. We had a two types that night (as if we weren’t gluttonous enough already).

The first were Sweet Empanadas using the same pastry dough as the savory version. This time, N took whole Guava and cooked them down with sugar and lime until it broke down into a thick, almost compote texture. She then pressed it through a fine sieve to get a floral Guava paste. Seester and the kids stuffed the Sweet Empanadas with a few spoonfuls of the guava paste and a dollup of cream cheese. YUM!

But again, I blew it and didn’t get any good pictures of them.

#failedagain

DOH!

I promise I’ll be better next time!

Mojito Cheesecake

The second dessert of the night was my riff on a Mojito inspired Cheesecake.

What makes this a Mojito Cheesecake?

I started off by making “mint sugar” by pulsing plain ol’ granulated sugar with a few handfuls of fresh mint leaves. The end results in a bright and herbaceous sugar. Perfect for baking like in my Mojito Cookies or in drinks.

Mojito Cheesecake

The filling is flavored with mint sugar, tons of fresh lime juice, lime zest and lime extract. If the kiddos weren’t partaking, I would have also added a few splashes of light rum to the batter as well as the whipped cream. Granted the baking would cook off any alcohol but I didn’t think the munchkins would like flavor.

And since we were already sipping on Mojitos, I thought we could skip on the extra booze. I can practice restraint sometimes. :)

Bellies full, to-go bags packed…..I’d say it was another SUCCESSFUL Family Dinner!

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Mojito Cheesecake
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Mint Sugar:
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons mint sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup mint sugar
1/8 teaspoon cornstarch
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime zest
1½ teaspoon Key Lime extract
1 ounce light rum, optional

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons mint sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lime zest
½ ounce light rum, optional

Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.

Prepare the mint sugar. In a food processor, pulse the granulated sugar and mint leaves until the leaves have been ground down and combined with the sugar.

Prepare the crust. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, mint sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan and press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

Prepare the filling. Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sour cream until its light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the mint sugar and cornstarch. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice, lime extract, zest, and rum (optional) until well combined. Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven with a pan half full of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. (To prop the oven door, I use a wooden handled spoon to keep it ajar a few inches). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes. Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Carefully remove the sides of the pan by running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the mint sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest, rum (optional) and whip until combined.

Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake and garnish with additional lime slices and mint leaves.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache

Chocolate is a beautiful thing—don’t you think? The Mayans and Aztecs sure thought so.

Rich, deep….just bliss.

Whipped Ganache

So how can you possibly make it even better?

Top chocolate with chocolate.

Now we’re talking!

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache

These cuppies are decadently rich with the deep flavor of cocoa. Due to the tangy sour cream, it’s not only incredibly moist but perfectly balanced. As for the frosting, what better than an uber chocolatey whipped ganache? So simple, so much chocolate.

A chocoholic’s dream.

Swoon……

But be warned—come equipped with a tall glass of milk.

And with that Friends– Happy 1st Day of Summer & National Flip Flop Day!!!

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Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup strongly brewed coffee, room temperature
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur, optional
sprinkles, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in cupcake pans.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

In a mixing stand with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar for 2-3 minutes until they become a pale yellow. Add the oil, sour cream, coffee, and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fill each of the cups ¾ the way up.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

While the cupcakes cool, prepare the ganache frosting.

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil. Remove and pour the scalded cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly into the bowl of the chopped chocolate. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 4-5 minutes. Gently whisk the mixture until the ganache is smooth and glossy. Whisk in coffee liqueur, optional. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes until the ganache has slightly chilled.

Transfer the ganache to the bowl of a mixing stand. With the whisk attachment, whisk until the ganache becomes light and fluffy. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe on top of the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with sprinkles.

Blame it on the Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

I’ve been a bit behind on posting these past few weeks. Well…you know. I’ve been training for a triathalon, saving baby elephants, walking 150 miles in the snow for groceries, mining crystals for a new lightsaber and baking monkey bread. Oh-and the dog ate my homework.

Alright…that’s not totally true. I only walked 100 miles in the snow. But I think you’ll forgive me if you make this Monkey Bread. Easy and decadently delicious. The recipe isn’t cutting edge or new but it’s definitely one you need to have in your back pocket.

I start off by cutting up canned biscuit dough. Yup, the store bought kind. You can definitely make your own dough but this gal likes to live life on the edge.

Monkey Bread

Then toss the dough into a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.

Shake, shake, shake…..

Monkey Bread

Pile the dough into a greased bundt pan or an angel food pan.

Monkey Bread

Next I melt just a tad of butter and brown sugar together. After the sugar dissolves, I whisk in a few splashes of vanilla extract and a pinch or two of kosher salt.

Monkey Bread

Then I drizzle the caramel-like sauce over the dough and bake it for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Monkey Bread

After the Monkey Bread cools for a bit, carefully invert it onto a plate.

Bada-Bing! Bada-Boom!

The most delish donut/cinnamon roll/breakfast bun magic you’ll ever taste! Super ooey-gooey from the glaze with little crunchy, sugar bits.

Swoon.

Monkey Bread

Forgive me for now? :)

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Monkey Bread

Ingredients:

3 16-ounce cans biscuit dough
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-3 pinches ground cloves
2-3 pinches ground allspice
cooking spray
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 pinches kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut each biscuit into quarters. In a large plastic resealable bag, add in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Seal the bag and gently shake so the ingredients are well mixed.

Open the bag and add the biscuit dough. Seal the bag again and carefully shake until all of the dough has been well covered. *You may need to do this in two separate bags to fit all of the dough.

Spray the inside of a bundt pan or angel food pan with cooking spray. If using an angel food pan, be sure to cover the bottom with aluminum foil. Layer the sugared dough into the pan. Sprinkle any of the remaining sugar mixture from the plastic bag on top of the dough.

In a small sauce pan, melt together the butter and brown sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. Whisk in the salt and vanilla extract.

Pour the sauce over the dough and gently rap the pan on the counter a few times. Place the pan on a baking sheet (in case the sauce bubbles over) and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the top becomes a deep golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack before inverting onto a large plate. Serve immediately.

Lucas’ Galatic Star Wars Birthday Party

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was my Lucas’ 4th birthday the other week. And as his auntie/godmama, I’ve affectionately nicknamed him Lucasaurus.

Don’t let his charming smile, bright wit and adorable face fool ya. He can be a downright rascal—– a veloci-rascal!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But I just adore the kid to pieces.

So last year, when I mentioned to my seester (pictured above with her super photogenic fam) that we should throw him a Star Wars themed birthday party–she was all for it.

And that’s where I was in trouble. Now some of you all may have witnessed my tendencies to go overboard with certain things and that my OCD habits can get me in a tough spot. Well–then you have not met my seesters…..and in particular, my over-the-top party planning sister, T.

Star Wars1-001

Nearly 5 months before Lucas’ birthday, she started sending me texts about deals she found on party favors, decorating ideas she found on Pinterest, signage she had created, etc. The next thing I knew it, we were headed warp speed into Star Wars mania.

As for me, I just went along for the ride hoping my desserts would get the stamp of approval by the party planning Jedi.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But look at this little guy? How could we not get carried away?!

…Wrapped around his finger, he has us….

So then this happened.

Star Wars Dessert Tablescape

A bountiful Star Wars tablescape with desserts and goodies galore. But as much as I wish I could take the credit for all the galactic-goodness, I was only in charge of the desserts.

Seester did all the decor (that she started putting up 2 weeks before the party), cute signs, overflowing swag bags, and all the adorable touches that would have made the Jedi Council proud.

Star Wars5-001

Of course a regular Star Wars themed party wouldn’t cut it, so they upped the ante and arranged a Jedi Training Camp in order for all the padawans to prepare for their path to Jedi Knighthood.

IMG_1200

Lightsabers and Jedi Robes were a must, including cadet boxes to store all their goodies.

Star Wars4-001

To quench our thirst on the beautiful day, we sipped fresh Millennium Margaritas (for Jedi Masters 21+), Yoda Soda and Vader-Ade. Special props to my brother-in-law for hand squeezing the 25+ limes I needed to make the margaritas.

Trust me, we will never scoff again at those who own electric citrus juicers–DOH!

Star Wars2-002

And to fuel our Force, we summoned the Taco Master all the way from Orange County– I mean Tatooine. :)

Mouthwatering Carne Asada, Carnitas, Fish, Nachos….ideal nourishment to battle the Empire.

Taco Master from Tattoine

Back at our tablescape, Seester put together these cute Star Wars themed candies. Yoda Treats, Han’s Rolo, Edible Ewoks, & Thermal Detonators.

Star Wars-001

And poor Han.

All he wanted to do was to come wish Lucas a Happy Birthday but then he got himself frozen in carbonite again.

Star Wars3-001

Seester got to employ her knife skills by carving a watermelon Death Star. Lord Vader would have been pleased.

Watermelon Death Star

Lucky for us, Chewbacca was kind enough to guard the goodies from any other Sith Lords.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Speaking of Sith Lords, I started off my dessert contributions by molding Stormtrooper and Darth Vader chocolates to place on top of the cupcakes. They later received a bit of edible disco dust for a bit of sheen….they are from outer space after all.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Chocolates

They perched atop rich Chocolate Cupcakes topped with big swirls of Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream and sprinkles. Some of the cuppies were also topped with vanilla whipped cream.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Cupcakes

I paid additional homage to Darth Vader with these Chocolate Shortbread Cookies made with Valrhona cocoa powder.

Chocolate Darth Vader Cookies

How would it be a party without Master Yoda? These were Citrus Scented Sandwich Cookies filled with a Dark Chocolate Ganache.

Delicious, he was.

Yoda Sandwich Cookies

And to keep Darth Vader company, I made an army of Stormtrooper Sugar Cookies that were decorated with Royal Icing.

They were super fun to make and all of the cutters can be purchased from Williams Sonoma.

Storm Trooper Sugar Cookies

There were also pops for all to enjoy…..

Princess Leia Cake Pops & Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

“That’s no moon-it’s a Space Station!”

Not quite Master Obi-Wan but you’re close. They’re Rice Krispy Pops shaped as Death Stars. Not only a superweapon but super-yummy.

Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

And Princess Leia Cake Pops. Lucas really enjoyed these.

Princess Leia Cake Pops

And what’s a birthday party without a birthday cake?

I just had to make a little cake for our Jedi in training although Seester called it a “gentleman’s cake”. This was a 6 inch, 3-layer chocolate cake frosted with Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I decorated the little cake with a fondant Stormtrooper accented with royal icing, fondant lightsabers, fondant Star Wars banner, Darth Vader molded chocolates, fondant stars and a star sparkler.

Star Wars Birthday Cake

At Jedi Training Camp, there was a Space Pod and stations for the padawans to bottle their own galaxies.

Lucas' Birthday

And then it was time to don their robes because…

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Duh, duh, duh, dum, da-dah, dum, da-dah………..

Darth Vader appeared! He was powerful, all-knowing, and—

Lucas' 4th Birthday

He liked parachutes. Yup, parachutes.

Lord Vader thought it was an integral training tool for the young padawans and can be seen here strategizing with the younglings.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Heck–Vader even cleaned up after the parachute exercises!

There may still be good in him.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Then he showed the padawans how to properly yield their sabers and spar.

I’m think that Lucas is saying– “You look a lot bigger on TV but I still pity the foo’ who messes with me!”

Oh yes, that was a Star Wars–Mr. T crossover moment.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Cake Time!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But that sneaky Vader used The Force to make the candles relight after Lucas blew them out.

He’s quite a trickser—when he’s not serving the Emperor and upholding the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Lucas and Vader. They’re BFFs now.

The Lucasaurus always wins over the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was an action packed and exhausting day but the little guy had a blast.

And of course, we prevailed by restoring balance to the Force.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

The Force is strong with this one and I look forward to watching him grow into Jedi greatness.

Until our next Jedi Episode (hopefully for my other nephew, Leonidas’ birthday)— MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Matcha (Green Tea) Icebox Cheesecake

Green Tea "Icebox" Cheesecake

Have you ever made an icebox cheesecake? They’re actually quite easy and don’t require a finicky water bath. In lieu of eggs, the filling utilizes gelatin to help it set. The end results? Something quite light and fluffy that won’t leave you feeling too heavy at the end of the meal.

Green Tea "Icebox" Cheesecake

This particular icebox cheesecake is flavored with matcha– a finely ground green tea powder. It’s quite floral and has a slightly bitter taste which is why it pairs so well with the chocolate crust. Depending on the quality of the matcha that you use, you may want to add more than the recipe lists to oompf up the flavor.

My fam-bam are fans of green tea so we served big slices of this cheesecake with heaping scoops of green tea ice cream at our last Family Dinner. But if you prefer, you can serve it with dollops of fresh whipped cream or by itself.

Totally Oishii.

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Matcha (Green Tea) Icebox Cheesecake
Serve 8-10

Ingredients:

2½ cups chocolate cookie/wafer crumbs (I used Oreos)
1 cup + 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, divided
4 tablespoons melted butter
1¼ cups chilled heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon matcha (green tea) powder, more for dusting
2¼ teaspoons gelatin powder
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cover a 10-inch springform pan with a light layer of cooking spray. Combine the cookie/wafer crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Press crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Set the whipped cream aside.

Using a clean bowl, whip the cream cheese using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the remaining sugar, stopping every so now and then to scrape down the sides.

Heat the milk until it is hot but not boiling. Whisk in the matcha until full incorporated. Turn the mixer with the cream cheese on low and slowly stream in the cooled milk mixture. Mix until just combined.

In a small bowl, bloom the gelatin in the water.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Fold until just combined. Add the gelatin and gently fold in. *If the gelatin has hardened, microwave for 10 seconds until it becomes liquid again before adding into the cheesecake mixture.

Pour the cheesecake filling over the cooled crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.

Before serving, gently release the springform pan ring. Dust the top with additional matcha powder and serve.

Adapted from Dessert First

Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

Our monthly Sunday Family Dinners have kind of morphed into Saturday Family Dinners. It may not have the same ring to it but after an evening of consuming tons of goodness, the last thing I want to do is to drive back home to San Diego to make it to work the next morning.

March 2013 Family Dinner

So last weekend, we held our monthly Fam-Din at my seester’s casa where we jumped into a Middle Eastern inspired menu. The seesters made Roasted Garlic Hummus, Cucumber-Chickpea-Feta Salad, Shish Tawook and Basmati Rice.

March 2013 Family Dinner

Shish Tawook are chicken skewers that are marinated in yogurt, citrus, spices and then grilled. My seester served them with toum which was a super garlicky sauce that she was obsessed with. Truth be told, I had no idea what toum was before this weekend but it was fantastic over the chicken. As for the salad, it went really well with the Shish Tawook as the acidity helped to cut and brighten the dish.

March 2013 Family Dinner

Initially I was going to bake fresh pita to serve alongside with the hummus and chicken but well…I got lazy, really lazy. And since one of my seesters lives down the street from a wonderful Middle Eastern grocery store, I decided to pick up some of their delicious sangkak that they bake fresh throughout the day. Sangkak is a Persian flatbread that is slightly chewy and the one I picked up from Aria was about 36 inches long, speckled with sesames seeds, and was steaming hot.

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

As for my homemade contributions to dinner, I made a Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake for dessert and Pomegranate Mojitos. Yea, yea….I know mojitos are Cuban but I considered it a fusion since I used pomegranates and fresh mint for this cocktail—totes Middle Eastern flavors. :)

Pistachio-Orange Blossom Cake

As for the cake, well…..truth be told, this was an 11th hour addition. The original dessert I had planned to make was a Pistachio Pound Cake but when it cooled, it weighed a gazillion pounds and was as hard as a brick!!! It totally confounded me as the recipe appeared “normal” and I didn’t over bake it but that’s how new dessert recipes roll sometimes. Hit or miss. But if I didn’t experiment on my loved ones, who would I try new recipes on? :)

So with dinner just a few hours away, I pulled out one of my tried and true recipes and modified it a bit to compliment our Middle Eastern themed menu. To a trusted cake batter, I added finely ground pistachio nuts, fresh orange zest and a few dashes of orange blossom water that I had picked up when I grabbed the sangkak.

With a hope and a prayer, I served my “do-over” cake with fresh berries, a citrus scented whipped cream and crushed pistachios. And guess what? The seebs and kids really liked it! Really! Because if they didn’t, they would’ve told me in a heartbeat. That’s the thing with family. They give brutally honest feedback–something I completely appreciate it….when it comes to cooking, that is.

The cake was rather light and beautifully aromatic from the pistachios and orange flavors. And although I did cover it with a glaze, it wasn’t too sweet and paired well with the fluffy whipped cream I scented with orange zest. As for the berries, wonderfully tart and bright.

All in all, it was a delicious and successful Fam-Din! And true to form, we hadn’t finished 1/2 of our meal before we started planning April’s menu—Japanese!

The Vapors would be so proud.

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Pistachio–Orange Blossom Cake
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

Cake Batter
2¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1½ tablespoons fresh orange zest
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
½ cup finely ground pistachios

Glaze
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios

Orange Scented Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons fresh orange zest

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and eggs in another bowl.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, orange zest and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and with the paddle attachment beat at medium speed until ingredients are light and fluffy. Beat in the almond extract and orange blossom. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Mix in ½ of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in 1/3 of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, mixing until the batter is well mixed, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Continue beating for another minute to ensure that the batter is thoroughly mixed and then add in the ground pistachios. Mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into a well greased bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minute before carefully inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has completely cooled, create the glaze. In a large measuring cup, combine all the glaze ingredients except the nuts. Microwave in 20 second intervals until the glaze has just combined (whisking in between). Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving. *The glaze is quite thin. For a thicker consistency, double the amount of powdered sugar.

Before serving, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the zest and whip until combined.

Serve the cake with dollops of whipped cream, additional chopped pistachios and fresh raspberries (optional).

Mixed Berry Hand Pies for π Day!

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

HOLY COW!!! I almost missed it—again! But thanks to my fab Twitter feed, I was reminded in the nick of time that today is…….. π (Pi) Day!!!!

Yup, the mathematical constant π (Pi) that is approximately 3.14159 is celebrated every year on March 14th. 3/14 = 3.14 Get it????? Oh so clever!

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

So, what does one do to celebrate π Day? Well– I guess if you’re a big math fanatic, you may spend your day racing through equations or preparing for the next Math Olympics. OR you can spend your day baking and eating delicious pies.

Seeing how I’m rather mathematically inept, I chose the latter and made these fun Mixed Berry Hand Pies. Crispy, flaky crust filled with tart fresh berries. Scrumptious!

And in case you’re feeling extra naughty today, you can choose to deep fry the hand pies instead of baking them. Why the π not?

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

And with that Friends, Happy π (Pi) Day!!!

ps. Obviously I was too busy shoving my face with these hand pies to wipe my fingers clean of powdered sugar before snapping this pic. Ooops!

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Mixed Berry Hand Pies
Makes 10-12 pies

Ingredients:

2 cups diced fresh strawberries
1 cup diced fresh blackberries
½ teaspoon lemon zest
seeds from ½ vanilla bean pod
1½ tablespoons sugar (more if berries are too tart)
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
flour for dusting
1 pound pie dough*
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon heavy cream or water
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat.

In a bowl, gently mix together the berries, lemon zest, vanilla beans, sugar and cornstarch. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, more sugar may be added. Set aside.

Dust a workspace with flour and roll the pie dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 5-6 inch round cookie cutter to cut circles out of the dough. Place about 2 spoonfuls of the berry mixture in the center of a pastry circle. Fold over the dough to cover the filling and gently press the edges together to seal. You may also use a fork to crimp the edges to secure the seal. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Transfer the hand pies to the baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and heavy cream/water. Brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash and make a small nick with a sharp knife on top to allow the steam to release while the pies bake.

Bake the hand pies for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the berry filling bubbles out. Once done, allow the hand pies to cool on racks for about 10 minutes. Dust the hand pies with powdered sugar and serve.

Fried Option: If you opt to deep fry your hand pies, do not brush them with the egg wash or cut an air vent in the filled pies. Once formed, refrigerate them for at least 20 minutes. Fill a heavy bottom pot with 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees F. In batches, fry the hand pies for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer the hand pies to cooling racks to drain excess oil. After 5 minutes, dust them with powdered sugar and serve.

*When it comes to pie dough, I’m a big fan of using Cook’s Illustrated’s Foolproof Pie Dough recipe or Martha Stewart’s Patee Brisee recipe. Both yield great results AND they’re both ideal to make double batches of to freeze when you need them.

Samoa Cupcakes…and those savvy Girl Scouts

Samoa Cupcakes

When it comes to cookies, I’ve always believed that the Girl Scouts could hustle. I mean, c’mon now. Adorable little girls, pleading for some philanthropic cause while slinging delicious cookies. A no brainer!

And every year, you could always count me in for at least a box or two of those delectable bites. But alas, two years ago, my fate was sealed.

Yup. My niece, Maya, had joined the Scouts. I was in trouble.

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Look at that face! Who could say “no“?

Although, more accurately, I think she started as a “Daisy”—a neophyte Girl Scout, I think. Thus my 1-2 boxes of cookies has now grown to 6, 7, 8….. Ugh–you get my drift.

Samoa Cupcakes

But how can you really blame me? I’m a sucker for my little buggers and when they’ve got cookies, I’ve got no chance.

The cookies are delicious on their own and even frozen. But every so now and then, I try to rework the beloved Girl Scout cookie into a cupcake like my Tagalong Cupcakes (a cookie on the bottom and top), Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes (cookies in the batter and on top), and finally these Samoa Cupcakes.

Samoa Cupcakes

These cuppies are my tribute to the Samoa Cookie (and Maya)—a chocolate cupcake topped with a caramel cream cheese frosting, rolled in toasted coconut flakes, topped with a chocolate drizzle and half a Samoa cookie. Yup…I went there.

So friends, as long as Maya is a Scout, you can count on an annual Girl Scout themed cuppie. With that said, anyone else having flashbacks of Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills?

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Samoa Cupcakes
Makes approximately 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcake Batter
5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup strongly brewed hot coffee
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 heaping tablespoons caramel sauce
4-5 cups sifted confectioner sugar (varies due to preferred frosting consistency)

Toppings
1½ cups toasted coconut flakes
¼ cup melted chocolate
12 Samoa® Cookies, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin pans.

Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs until it becomes pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly incorporate the melted chocolate. In increments, add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into the lined cups–about 3/4 way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add caramel sauce and then gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup at a time. Continue adding sugar until desire consistency.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Roll the tops of the cupcakes in the toasted coconut flakes. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops and then garnish with ½ a Samoa® cookie. Enjoy!