Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fun fun funfetti

This grad school gig has been fun but it doesn't really pay bills. By really, I mean it doesn't at all. Luckily I get some of my drinking money from baking things on the side. This cake is so cute. I've always wanted to make funfetti cake but nobody in my family was ever that enthused by the idea of a white cake with sprinkles in it. This was for a coworker's daughter for her Teacher's Appreciation Day. What better way to say thank you to a teacher than with a sugar-packed colorful cake, right?

The icing was extremely easy, and the frosting is so light and sugary. It is adapted from Magnolia Bakery's frosting recipe (if I have to explain what Magnolia's frosting is like, then you have not lived life). And now that I know that clear vanilla extract exists (sue me, I thought it only came in "brown") I'll be making ridiculously colored frosting from now on. You want a chocolate cake? THE ICING WILL BE PURPLE, DEAL WITH IT.

Really easy cake to make, there's not much to it. I did use these Wilton Baking Strips to make sure that the cakes baked flat, thus making it easier to stack. Eh, eh? Pro tip: don't throw away that pin it comes with otherwise you have no way to fasten the strips and will revert to using paperclips... The recipe is from TheKitchn, and I made zero adjustments so the recipe is also below.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rabbit dessert

Not really. This isn't healthy at all. Just because 5 or 6 carrots are used in the making of these (cup)cakes, the (delicious) amount of oil and cream cheese incorporated into the final product cancels out all of the nutritional value. That being said, they were delicious.

There's really not much else to say about carrot cake. This recipe had maple cream cheese frosting and the batter is really adaptive to any combination of add-ons you prefer (walnuts, pineapples, etc.). I didn't mix anything in so the batter was really smooth and the cake was pretty uniform. The layer cake version I made had dried pineapples and walnuts in between the layers and adorning the top and sides. Decorate and bake at your whim. It's a really easy recipe to follow. Thank you, Smitten Kitchen. Definitely use a grater to get smoother pieces of carrot.

The first batch of cupcakes were for my friend Amay's birthday. The layer cake? Just for fun. My life is fat.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hydration station

Living in New Orleans means that I have a consistently decent amount of alcohol in my bloodstream. This also means that nights out are followed by horrendously dehydrated mornings. My friends in Public Health have devised countless strategies for rehydration or hangover prevention and I've almost always reached out for gallons of water, coconut water, and aloe vera juice. Being Asian meant I had plenty of access to the latter because they were in every Asian supermarket. But, since I moved down South every international market is a little hard to get to without a car. I've actually never seen any aloe vera juice in the supermarkets as long as I've been here in New Orleans.

My luck changed. I got samples of Aloic organic aloe vera drink in the mail and tried it out to see if it tasted the way its Korean counterparts did. It definitely did, and it was only 60 calories per 8 fl. ounces. After St. Patrick's weekend, this was a lifesaver. I think the best part was that the ingredients list wasn't entirely complicated to read (and I could pronounce every ingredient in my sleep). Whenever I look at labels I'm always partial to ingredients lists that have 10 or less things in them. There are no artificial flavorings, no high fructose corn syrup, and certified USDA organic. For those wary about the taste of aloe vera or the texture of the pulp, it's much like an acquired taste for the tapioca in bubble tea. It's not bothersome, and the natural grape flavor of the drink is sure to mask any weird things going on when you drink this.

Many sources have cited aloe vera juice or aloe vera in general as having anti-inflammatory properties, aiding in weight loss, and helping out immune and digestive functions. Although there are many who tout its benefits, there are still plenty of studies that need to be done to confirm all of these claims. But, when you're out all weekend and water doesn't seem to be doing the trick, reaching out for a bottle of Aloic isn't going to hurt. In fact, your whole day is probably going to have a little less hurting, and a little more hydration.

Check out Aloic's website for more information, and for recipes to use with your bottle of Aloic.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When in Rome

I am the biggest fan of creamy, fatty pastas. As if the starch in the noodles wasn't enough, I like to "go big or go home" and let my pasta swim in a giant pool of heavy cream-based sauce. This was the exact reason why I was so surprised I would actually like carbonara seeing as there isn't really cream in this dish. Carbonara is traditionally from Rome, with a pancetta, egg, pecorino or parmeggiano, and pepper base). Sure, there's the fat from the egg, but can we just say that it's protein for the sake of this post?

For the impatient cook, like me, this was possibly the best thing I could have prepared, let alone eaten. You can make any combination of this depending on what's in your fridge and what you like to have in your pasta. The main "sauce" is just egg and Parmesan mixed together until it forms a thick paste of sorts. As your pasta components (mine were leek and shiitake mushrooms from the Hollygrove Farmer's Market produce box) saute, all you do is dump your cooked noodles in the skillet and pour the egg and cheese mixture over everything and stir to thoroughly combine it all. The whole thing comes together and it's kind of a miracle. A really cheap miracle.

There are many variations of this, and the recipe I used was from How Sweet Eats (yup, same person I got the Bailey's double fudge cookies from). You know what would've made this a million times better? If I had bacon. Not sure if it's still technically carbonara without that salty, delicious cut of meat, but I'm sticking to it.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Easy indulgence

As much as I'd like to have the time to create meals and desserts completely from scratch, there are definitely moments in my life where that is just straight up impossible. Exhibit A: post-Mardi Gras. My body was unable to perform basic human functions, let alone prepare a Valentine's Day/birthday treat for my lab co-worker.

Behold, the procrastinator/lazy-girl's best friend: slutty brownies. I'd say it's a fairly appropriate name given many people's proclivity for lust on Valentine's Day...and also because this is insanely easy. You can choose to make your own cookie dough, your own brownie batter, heck, even your own chocolate sandwich cookies from scratch. But why? Had I known better I would have bought packaged cookie dough instead of following the recipe for a cookie dough base from scratch. Basically, all of these are just layered together: chocolate chip cookie, Oreo, and brownie.

Had I been a curious 5-year-old, this might have been a baking project I could have tackled with my parent's assistance. This is so easy you could probably do this drunk. I may have been able to bake this after coming home from a Mardi Gras parade, in fact.

As fun as this balcony view was, I'm enjoying this view just as much.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Afternoon snack

Or breakfast? Either I have uncontrolled snack cravings or I had an unlikely hankering for bananas but I came home one day last week needing to make banana bread. I didn't want a whole vat of oil or butter or sour cream to make this either, considering Mardi Gras was upon me, so I consulted good old Pinterest for some inspiration. I found a somewhat healthier version on make happy.

I used 1 cup of oat flour (old fashioned oats ground up in a food processor) and 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour because I didn't have the whole wheat pastry flour. The original recipe is below. I'll try this recipe again using the pastry flour. I'm sure it would give me lighter muffins. These are slightly sweet (really, slightly) and aren't very crumby or easily squished. The texture is odd for a muffin, to me, at least, but that comes with having a recipe sans oil or butter.

Try them out the next time you want to prep your snack for an entire week. They're a little over 150 calories per muffin, so it's not too bad.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spice heaven

Ever since I can remember I have always loved spicy food. Narrowing that category down, my favorites have been Thai and Indian because the spices in the dishes have always been so flavorful and complex. Back in Auckland my parents had slowly started to introduce various ethnic cuisines to me and my brother. One of the first places we tried was an Indian restaurant close to home. This is where I fell in love with butter chicken (murgh makhani). 

On the menu: aloo gobi, butter chicken, and brown Basmati rice
I look for it everywhere but many of the versions I've tried here in the U.S. have been very red and the taste was not quite as nutty and rich as I first remembered it being. I came across a Chicago food blog (What's Cookin, Chicago?) whose recipe utilized ground cashews, and I knew this recipe was gonna get me closer to my favorite version of butter chicken than many other restaurants could ever do.

I decided to prepare this as part of a dinner for some of my friends before we headed out to a Mardi Gras parade last weekend. This recipe is very easy to follow and as long as you make sure you do not omit any spice listed this will yield a creamy, flavorful, and spicy (however much you can handle) dish. There was definitely none left by the end of the evening. Adding some dried fenugreek leaves would also give the dish a more authentic flavor.

 Some papadums and raita to go with the butter chicken and aloo gobi.

I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. This is so much easier than I thought it would be (definitely just as long as you have all of your spices out, measured, and ready to go in the pot), so much so that I could never bring myself to make any curry from a jar ever! I like my butter chicken spicy so I've included the spice adjustments I've made in the recipe below. The original recipe is here, and another version I'd like to try is here. I can't wait to make this again and this time devour it all by myself.