Wednesday, July 29, 2009

snack time! ~

I have not ever considered myself hesitant to try new tastes, but until I started cooking some Vietnamese (and other Asian) food, I didn't know that truthfully, I was hesitant. I was always willing to taste Cajun food, Mexican food, things I was somewhat familiar with - but after my mom said mangoes tasted to her like pine-sol, it took several minutes to will myself into taking a bite of the peeled, juicy one I had in my hand that day. And it's been full speed ahead since then, with mangoes falling right below lemons and limes for my absolute favorite fruit.

Today, I found that still, I have a hesitancy about me - I am determined to get rid of that, if it takes me the rest of my life to do it, lol.

The sweet sweet little older Japanese lady at the Asian market that I adore, well, today, when I asked her about a package of mung bean cakes, told me they were a fairly healthy snack. I honestly had no idea what to expect, but I was feeling adventurous and bought one. All afternoon, it's taunted me in there, as it sat on the kitchen counter looking all smug and self-satisfied. "Come on, big talker, whatcha waitin' for?"

So I came in here and googled it. LOL


When I found it was supposed to have a sweet taste, I hesitated no longer - and you know, I like it. It faintly reminds me of Big Mama's fried pies, when I was a little girl. Not that it's fried, because it's not, it's baked. But there's something about a fruity tasting paste inside a crust that makes me think of those yummy fried peach pies that I gorged myself on at 8 years old.

But it's kind of heavy. They aren't really very big, but they are thick and the paste fills up just about the whole inside. Half was good enough for me, for now. Later, I'm going to pop the other half into the microwave for a few secs, and see if it tastes good warm.

I am all about finding fairly healthy snacks to get me through the day, especially when I'm working, and school will be starting up very soon. This one made it to the list, along with hardboiled eggs, string cheese, and bananas. :)

Thanks, Fuji-ya lady. One more step forward along the no-hesitation path of eating.


Monday, July 27, 2009

the Daring Baker's July Challenge...Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies

So - I've added something else to my already FULL plate - a monthly baking challenge. LOL.

Ah, well, a girl has to do something she loves to pamper herself a bit, right? :)

Since I love baking, I thought this would be fun. A new challenge every month, posted on the 27th of the month, and here goes my first one ever. The Daring Bakers are found at and all the participating members get the challenge on the same day of the month (at the beginning), bake it during the month, and post their results on their blogs on the same day of the month, the 27th. If it sounds like fun to you, check it out and let me know so I can keep my eyes open for your posts. :)

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Since it was legal to only choose one of the two, I did the marshmallow cookies. Too much going on this month and time got away from me to do the Milan cookies, but I am hanging on to the recipe for later.

OK - here goes, with recipes (cookies, marshmallows, and chocolate) and my most likely droning commentary accompanying, LOL.

For the cookie base:
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, whisked together
Homemade marshmallows (recipe follows)
Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)

In a mixer, blend the dry ingredients, then add butter and mix until sandy (I had it at room temperature). Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Form dough into a ball or disk, wrap with plastic wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least an hour (or up to 3 days).
For baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a cookie sheet, or use parchment paper/silocon mat. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness. The original recipe said 1/8 inch, but I think that's a little too think, I did some that way but preferred the ones that were about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out small rounds of dough using a 1 1/2 inch cutter.
Place on prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool to room temperature on a rack. (Note - I made this kind and also added some cocoa powder to the recipe for chocolate cookies).
Next, with homemade marshmallows in a pastry bag, pipe a kiss of marshmallow onto each cooled cookie, and let sit uncovered at room temperature for a couple of hours. (Another note - I took out about 2/3 of the marshmallows and then for the last 1/3, added 1/4 teaspoon orange extract and a little red and yellow food coloring, to use on the chocolate cookie base).
Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicon mat, and dip the cookies into the melted chocolate glaze, lifting out with a fork when covered. Be sure and let the extra chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on pan and let sit at room temperature until the coating is firm, a few hours. I actually had to chill mine after they cooled, for a couple of hours, to get it firm enough not to stick to my fingers. A note about the marshmallows - you can make these cookies with store marshmallows by using the large ones, and cutting them in half, putting 1 half on each cookie. Heat it a little in a 350 oven to slightly melt and brown the marshmallow, and then dip after it cools.
For the homemade marshmallows:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (one envelope)
2 tablespoons cold water
2 egg whites , room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a bowl, place 2 tablespoons of cold water and sprinkle the powdereded gelatin over it to dissolve.
While this is going on, in a saucepan, mix 1/4 c. water, the light corn syrup, and the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Pour the syrup into the gelatin bowl, and mix well.
Whip the two egg whites until they soft peak stage; then pour the syrup mixture in (while mixer is running), add the vanilla, and beat at high speed until stiff peaks are formed.
Put the marshmallow mixture into a pastry bag and pipe out the marshmallows onto the cookies.

Chocolate glaze:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water. Use to dip marshmallow covered cookies. I used this exact recipe but next time, I'll use shortening like my mom does when she makes candy at Christmas. The chocolate sets up better and looks prettier in the end.
These were amazingly tasty and reminded me of the cookies I used to get at Piggly Wiggly when I was a kid. There were quite a few of them, and luckily for me and the kids, we didn't have to have them tempting us for several days, because we had a cookie reception for our new youth minister and his wife, and I took them as part of my contribution. Because honestly, I probably could have eaten them all, myself. They were that good.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coconut Pound Cake with Lime Glaze ~

This, my friends, is my final version. It has texture like my mom's pound cake, and fantastic flavor. The height is aweinspiring, LOL. Next time I make it, I'll put it in 2 or maybe 3 loaf pans and see what happens ~ but for now, I'm keeping this one just like it is.


Coconut Pound Cake
with Lime Glaze

1 1/4 cups shortening
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten until well blended
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tblsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
(mix flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside)
1 1/8 cup coconut milk
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(mix coconut milk and both extracts and set aside)
1 egg white, beaten until very frothy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream shortening and sugar; when blended well, increase speed and whip until light and fluffy. Pour beaten eggs into mixer bowl in 4 or 5 increments, with mixer running on low and mixing eggs well after each addition. Increase speed and whip again to a light fluffy stage. Stop the mixture and add 1/3 flour mixture; mix on low until incorporated well. Add 1/2 the coconut milk mixture, and incorporate well. Repeat flour mixture and coconut mixture, and end with adding the remaining flour mixture, incorporating the additions into the batter each time. Mix until you are sure the batter is well blended, but do not overmix. Fold in beaten egg white, with 2 or 3 slow turns of the mixer paddle, or fold in by hand. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, and bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes. Test at 1 hour, since your oven may be different from mine. When the cake is done, set on a rack for 15 minutes to cool in the pan; then make sure edges are loose and invert onto rack to cool completely, out of the pan. Place on cake plate and glaze liberally (or to your liking) with Lime Glaze. Before the glaze completely sets, top with thin shreds of lime zest and some cooled toasted coconut flakes.

Lime Glaze
1/2 lime, juiced completely into a bowl
powdered sugar to make a thick glaze
(this recipe is easily doubled for extra, such as in the photos here)

Mix well, until no sugar clumps remain. Spoon over cooled Bundt cake, letting it run down the sides. Adjust the amount of glaze to your liking.

Serving recommendation: tastes best when accompanied by a huge ice-cold glass of milk. :)


Friday, July 3, 2009

Test recipe ~

Please note - I have tested several recipes since this one, and have settled on a final version. I'm leaving this one up, just for my own reference in the future, but the link in the side bar "Cake recipes" will no longer bring this one up, but instead, the new and my favorite version. Thanks to those of you who bore with me during trial and error, lol. XOXO
After struggling through several cakes this past week to find what I wanted (that being, I finally decided, a really coconutty-tasting coconut cake), I have come up with this recipe. It is NOT, I repeat NOT, the finally endorsed recipe, because there is one change I want to try in an attempt to lighten the cake just a little...but it's dadgum close. Really good. My mom and my daughter both say leave it alone, except add more lime glaze on top. LOL. When I try it with the one change, I'll add an addendum to this post (and a new post just to notify of the addendum, oh faithful reader - teehee!) and let you know what it was and how it affected the final product.

On to coconut heaven!


Coconut Pound Cake with Lime Glaze
(messed around with and adapted by Sis, lol)

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup oil
3 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten until blended
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut)
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour a Bundt pan; set aside. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Mix coconut milk with coconut and vanilla extracts and set aside. Whip butter in mixer until light and fluffy; with mixer running, pour in sugar in a slow stream until all sugar is added; whip for a minute or so, then pour the 1/4 cup oil in slowly, with mixer running. Whip another minute. Add beaten eggs in 5 or 6 'batches', with mixer running, blending well with each addition. When well blended, stop the mixer and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix slowly until dry ingredients disappear; with mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in 1/2 of coconut milk mixture, until blended. Repeat: dry, then wet, then lastly, the final 1/3 of dry ingredients. Mix on low until dry ingredients disappear, then keep mixing on low for another minute, to be sure all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, 10 minutes, checking at 1 hour with a cake tester or toothpick. When cake is done, remove and set on a rack (in the pan) for 15 minutes; then place rack over cake pan and invert, removing pan. Let cool completely. For the glaze, juice one lime into a bowl, and then add powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments, mixing well until you get the consistency you desire, which should be pourable, but a very slow pour. This will probably take about a cup or more of powdered sugar (this is a guess, since I didn't even come close to a measuring cup while making mine, LOL - also, please note, this is more glaze than you see in the pictures; I made that with the juice of half a lime but by popular request, I've increased it to one whole lime here). Spoon thickly onto cooled cake and let it run down the sides. Top with thin threads of lime zest, and cooled toasted coconut. Serving recommendation - serve with a huge glass of ice cold milk!


Ga Xao Xa Ot (Stir-fried Chicken with Lemongrass )

This one, for me, is a recipe in the making. I copied it from one of my fav cookbooks, "The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking - Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes" by Mia Pham, but made a few changes to the amounts of some of the ingredients; for instance, more chicken; more sugar; etc. I was a little bit disappointed in it, thinking it was too bland, even with the changes I made. Of course, I put my serving on the rice as soon as it was done, and consumed it right then - good, but like I said, bland. About 15 minutes later, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, and putting the leftovers away, I couldn't help but grab a bite or two more. Surprisingly, it was much smoother and better tasting. So, my personal recommendation would be to let it rest for about 5 minutes, at least (maybe more like 10), before eating.

Googling around, I found several recipes online for the same thing - none of them had julienned carrots (which I liked, and will keep in any version I make) or any cornstarch, and all of them had caramel sauce, which Pham's didn't. Also, it seemed like the chicken pieces were bigger, and most people used thighs; and there also seemed to be sort of a caramelized glaze on the chicken I saw in some photos. Some recipes even recommended marinating the chicken pieces in the sauce overnight.

So - I'm not positively saying I'll keep this one as is - that glazed chicken looked so good - I'm thinking that I'll try again without the chicken stock, until the chicken is cooked through, and without cornstarch either. And then when the chicken is done, I'm thinking to add the stock and a little water, and simmer it in the remaining sauce in the pan, with cornstarch added at that time, to make a sauce to drizzle on the rice. Because the sauce was yummy, and I think it would be divine on hot rice - there just wasn't enough of it. When I do this, I'll repost with the results and let ya know how it went.

In the meantime, this was fairly good but as is, I probably won't make it again in this exact same way. I'm posting it like Pham's directions said to make it, with the few minor changes I made to it (in ingredient amounts), and am calling it "Ga Sao Xa" like she did, since it's based on her recipe.

Ga Sao Xa

1 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbls water
1 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long
3 Tbls vegetable oil
10 whole dried chilis
1/4 cup finely minced lemon grass
2 Tbls minced garlic
2 1/2 Tbls sugar
1 tsp ground chili paste
1 fresh red Thai chili, sliced thin
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbls fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 onion, sliced into thin wedges
1 cup julienned carrots, blanched and shocked in ice water and drained
fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish (which I forgot, lol)

Combine cornstarch and water, stir until dissolved; add chicken slices and set aside. Heat the oil on low heat; add dried chilis and cook until puffed, about 30 seconds or so. Remove and drain on paper towels. Increase heat to high and add lemon grass, garlic, sugar, chili paste, and fresh chili and cook until fragrant, stirring, about 1 minute. Add chicken, stirring to separate, and cook 3-4 minutes until opaque. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, salt, onion, and carrots, and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Add reserved chilis and cilantro, and serve.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

a new toss on pizza (haha, get it? "toss - pizza" HAH! Um...)

Not long ago I was once again taking pics of a pizza I'd made - Stevie walked in and said "Dontcha think your blog buddies are tired of your pizza by now?" Pop! Fizz.... Dang. She's right, it's the same ol' boring pizza.

Til now! Woot! A reason to blog about pizza again! So there, Miss Smarty-pants! ;)

I subscribe to this and get a daily email with a recipe in it. Most days, I scan it and delete it, but probably 25% of the time, it catches my interest. The other day, I got one for a pizza with no red sauce. Last night, I gave it a try, and I have to say, it was amazing. I really loved it.

Not a new 'recipe' as such, but just a twist on topping it. Here's the crust, if by chance I get a 3rd reader to this blog who's never seen the pizza before (rofl)...

And what the diff was is that I spread the crust with pesto. YUM! I mashed the crust out on a bigger pan, because I really wanted thin crust this time instead of puffy, spread it with jarred pesto, and topped it with tomato slices, torn spinach leaves, mushrooms, and black olives, then sprinkled feta and mozzarella on top of it all. It was a salty-type pizza, but delish. Here's the link to the original recipe, and following are some photos of last night's experiment. I could hardly wait to post them today. :)