Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ultimate Salted Caramel Brownies!

It's April! Spring is here (or I guess it's been here for a couple of weeks now to be more specific). I'm so excited because this year the caveman and I have decided to grow a herb and veggie garden! For the longest time, I'm like gardening is for when people retire and need something to do. Why would you ever want to garden?? Uh because its awesome! It's like having a farmer's market in your own backyard whenever you want! I started a mini herb collection last year towards the end of summer and it was surprisingly fulfilling seeing those little green guys grow and it was ever so delicious when I got to use them in dishes. Fresh is the best! So this year since I have a bit more free time on my hands, I decided to venture out. We got a few plants from friends and some we started from seeds, those were like our little pride and joy because to be honest, didn't think they would come up but they did! We just transferred some of the plants into bigger planters so we'll see how they'll do when the time comes. So far we have a variety of heirloom tomatoes, pepper plants, herbs and little Yukon gold potatoes. Yup potatoes....because we had a few that were starting to root on us so why not throw some dirt on it and make more?! Of course only downside to this whole gardening thing is the wait... but I think the end products will totally be worth it!
 
Now onto a different note, brownies! Soft gooey, chocolatey, rich, warm brownies... now I bet you want some too. No worries, I've got you covered, here's a nice and quick pain free recipe. Throw everything into a mixing bowl, mix and bake. Sounds just like the box brownie mix method doesn't it? I thought so too when I realized everything eventually ended up together. I was somewhat fooled with the multi-steps in the recipe I adopted this from so my end result was a couple more dishes to wash. Oh well. 

I had to up the game a little by adding in chips, coffee, caramel and what not but feel free to skip all that if you want and you'll still get some pretty amazing brownies. Good bye to lazy box brownies and hello to 'gourmet' homemade brownies that are just as lazy. Win!


Ultimate Salted Caramel Brownies
adapted from Best Brownies @ All Recipes.com
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp instant espresso/coffee syrup
  • 1/4 cup of salted caramel sauce or Torani Caramel Sauce if you're feeling lazy
  • salted caramel candy pieces (optional: sooo bad but sooo good)
Procedures:
  1. Melt butter over stove in a stainless steel pot (about 4-6 quart because this will be your mixing bowl). Remove from heat, whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well mixed.  
  2. Stir in cocoa powder, flour, salt, instant espresso, and baking soda until you get a smooth batter, add in chocolate chips. 
  3. Pour 1/2  the batter into a sprayed or oiled baking dish. Drizzle half the caramel sauce into the batter (toss in caramel candies) and pour the remaining brownie batter on top, drizzle with rest of the caramel sauce. 
  4. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let brownies set a little, then enjoy!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)!

I can't believe how easy it is to make this! I've always had this elaborate process built up in my head... like most things sometimes. Turnip cake or also known as lo bak go in a very rough Cantonese translation is one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with it, you can find them in places where they have dim sum. It's not cake at all so don't be misled by its name, its a bit dense, savory, and creamy, okay forget my description, its good stuff.  Its one of those common foods that many people already know how to make at home but with their own personal touches and preferences. My mom started making them for my brother and I while I was in high school. It's tasty but not my favorite (sorry...). The one my aunt makes, definitely up there on one of the top favorites. While I was in China, she made a boat load for my cousins and I to devour. My cousin is a big eater, at one point I seriously thought about hiding some so I would have some left over... 


Now that I'm much more interested in cooking and what not, I was, of course, poking my head in and out of the kitchen like some kind of creepier while she was throwing it all together. Like all traditional old fashion home cooking, there are no written notes, no recipes to follow, she did it all from memory - down to the very last grain of salt. The best kind of cooking there is and the product was tasty as ever. Now its my turn. Gave her a call the other day via WeChat and asked for some instructions (because its been a few months and I've forgotten about half the things she told me). By the end of the conversation I had to pause and be a little proud, not everyday you get to translate a recipe from a completely different language instantly in your head and writing it down in English. It was kind of fun in a nerdy kind of way. 

So anyways, here is MY version of this dish. For my first time, pretty good. I will need to play with it again to adjust to my liking - it was a little too doughy but the flavor was spot on! I had to make some changes because some of the more traditional Chinese ingredients were not as accessible but also Caveman is anti seafood (sad...). The recipe below has been readjusted with the appropriate amount of flour. One advice my aunt had was you really can't mess it up because some people like it super dense and other people like it semi-solid. Really a preference type of a thing. The consistency of this will be close to the ones you can get at dim sum but do adjust the flour levels as you see fit. Enjoy!

Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs of turnip (or daikon radish), shredded
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 4 strips of thick bacon, chopped
  • 2 Chinese sausages (or Chinese BBQ pork), chopped
  • 1/4 cup re-hydrated dried shrimp (optional or use 1 tsp of fish sauce)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1-2 tsp ground five spice
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cup of rice flour *
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
Procedures:
  1. Saute/cook bacon and sausages together, set aside, keep the grease. Leave a little on the pan to cook radishes with.
  2. Cook radish and sugar together until tender, radish will water, that's okay, you will use it.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine radishes, meats, and the rest of the ingredients, mix until well combine. Transfer into a metal pie tin or stainless steel plate that is steam friendly.
  4. Place into a large stock pot with about 1/4" of water and steam rack and cover. Bring water to a boil and turn down to medium low, steam for about 20-30 minutes until cake is slightly white translucent in color. Insert a knife or chopstick to check for doneness.
  5. Remove from heat, enjoy it now or cool completely and store in the fridge overnight, cut them into slices or cubes and pan fry with a bit of oil olive to give them a nice crispy outside (as pictured). Dip with some Sriracha, heaven!
* If you do not have any rice flour or would like an even smoother consistency in the turnip cakes,  you can make your own by soaking the same amount of rice in the amount of  water noted for the recipe for about 1-2 hours and using a food processor blend everything until smooth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PBC Reese's Pieces Cookies!

IT'S PI DAY! - 3.14159265359! Whoo but unfortunately, this will not be a pie recipe, cookies are round, so that should count for something :)


Hurray for rays of sunshine, finally! Actually getting quite warm, had to dig out the shorts yesterday...Very tempting to go everywhere, explore, eat loads of yummy foods, shop 'til I drop kind of mode ...but... I've "recently" (recently being relative) joined the unemployed and need to pull back on those urges for the time being. Not that I can't but being a responsible adult and all... I should probably be even more conservative in these dire times. haha but small secret...I'm slightly obsessed with Korean skincare products right now so there might have been some recent spending on this new found discovery. All I'm going to say is - if you want more natural skincare products without paying the premium and less harsh chemicals, that's where it is. (p.s. here's 20% off  in case you want to give it a try :))


Anyways, with loads of free time and not so many places to go, what better way to spend it then in the kitchen making some yummy treats for yourself. This idea was basically combining all the things the Caveman is crazy about into a cookie. The results are pretty darn delicious! Can't go wrong if you're in the mood for something peanut buttery, chocolatey and filled with Reese's Piece!

PBC Reese's Pieces Cookies
(aka Peanut Butter Chocolate Reese's Pieces Cookies! ...whew!)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 10 oz (1bag) of Reese's Pieces 
Procedures:
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  2. In another large mixing bowl cream together butters and sugar until well incorporated then mix in vanilla extract and egg + yolk until thick batter forms. Stir in Reese's Piece
  3. Slowly add in flour and mix until completely mixed into cookie dough.
  4. Scoop about 1" round onto a baking sheet and flatten slightly with hands/underside of a large spoon
  5. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes   

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Kitchen Gear: Convection Toaster Oven

If you're considering getting a toaster oven, I say go straight for the upgrade, a convection toaster oven. A bit more expensive but you would get so much more use out of it. You'd be surprised the things you can do in this bad boy. I've had one for so long, its become one of my kitchen staples. My journey started with not having a usable oven (and I say usable because I was living at home at the time and my mom being Asian, frugal, and space saving, decided oven  = extra storage space) so I started baking stuff with a toaster oven. Back then it was one of those tiny counter top toaster ovens. It took a little bit to get use to but once I got there, I was making all sorts of yummy treats (i.e most of the early baking entries of this blog). It did the job but then I laid eyes on the convection toaster oven (one pictured above), on sale for $80 at Costco. It was time for an upgrade. Never looked back and worth every penny.

What makes this piece of equipment so special (arguably on the same level as owning a Kitchen Aid stand mixer)? Let me tell you:
  • Compact but efficient: this is obviously larger than the small ($20) toaster ovens in the stores but unlike its mini counterpart, this does everything a standard sized oven can.
  • Perfect for small projects: Making a couple of slices of garlic buttered bread,? Heating up leftover pizza? Baking a small cake (up to 12")? Roasting chicken? A fast breakfast quiche? Yup, it can do all that and more!
  • Saves time: it heats up loads faster than a regular oven because its so small in comparison, I almost never preheat.
  • Better temperature control than your standard small counter top toaster ovens 
  • Faster baking time and more energy efficient: due to its smaller cavity, heat gets distributed much faster therefore using less baking time and less energy overall.
  • Mobile: Of course being a counter top oven, you can pretty much move this to wherever you like. At one point I had this on a table in an empty laundry closet I wasn't using in one of the apartments I was living in. Of course, there was NOTHING flammable in there so it's not as dangerous as that sounds. 
  • Includes a few heating options: quick toast, regular oven, convection, and broil.  
Those are just a few positives but don't just take my word for it, here a few more
** this is not an endorsement, opinions and purchase are of my own.