Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lollipop Pies

The boyfriend forwarded a link to a blog post about lollipop pies (or is it pie lollipops?) last week and said to me yesterday, Make those this weekend; that can be your Sunday project. I'm hardly one to turn down a food challenge, so I headed to Central Market to pick up supplies. (That's right: I use any excuse to go to Central Market.)

I cheated and bought refrigerated pie dough, but I did make my own filling. I grabbed a couple of pints of blueberries and blackberries and some lemons. That was way too much fruit, but I digress. Here's the filling recipe.


1 pint blueberries
1 pint blackberries
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar (or more if your fruit isn't very sweet)
1/8 cup cold water
2 tsp cornstarch

Put the first four ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Combine the cold water and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the filling . Continue to heat for another minute.
Remove from heat and set aside.

Other supplies

Lollipop sticks
Pie dough
2 in. round cookie cutter (or similar size)
1 egg (for eggwash)

Pie preparation

Preheat oven to 375F.
If you're using store-bought crust, you will need to let it sit at room temperature for maybe 15 minutes before unrolling it.
Roll dough out as thin as you can. Using a 2in round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can from your dough. (I only got 30 per pie dough roll, or 15 pops). Don't discard your leftovers - roll up, roll out, and cut again.
Put a small amount (maybe a teaspoon or less) of filling on half of the rounds. Pop a lollipop stick in the center of the filling, lay another round on top and, using a stick, press down the sides of the rounds.
Brush lightly with eggwash.
Cover the sticks with foil. You can just lay a strip of foil across the sticks.
Bake for 15 minutes.

Notes: Yeah, they were really cute. I got an "it's charming" comment from the boyfriend. But it took 45 minutes to make 15 mini-pies (and another 15 minutes for baking). Worth it? Sure, as long as you've got an extra pair of hands to help to speed up the process!
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mex-Asian Spice Rub

This'll be a quickie...we had a package of pork chops in the fridge on the verge of being past its "best by" date. I considered using barbecue sauce, but we just had barbecue for Garth's birthday on Thursday (on May 28th, Garth turned 35! old man...) You really can't have barbecue more than once a week, in my opinion. So I improvised a spice rub with ingredients on hand:

Canola oil
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Chile paste
Lime juice

Oh, did you want ratios? Err...well, I listed the ingredients in order of amount from greatest to least (except for the oil which was used to make a paste).

The flavor was just right. It was sort of a combination of Mexican & Asian, as both cultures tend to use cilantro and lime and chile / chili. Perfect for the pork chops.
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A Bluth Experiment

I love bananas. If you know me, you know why. (If you don't, it's because we grew up on a banana plantation in Costa Rica & the Philippines.)

I also love Arrested Development. Something reminded me of the Bluth banana stand in that show today, and since I made plans not to make plans this weekend, I had time to goof off in the kitchen.

Two things you have to love about this: bananas & chocolate. Really, how can you go wrong with this combination?

I almost don't want to write this in recipe form because it's too simple, and I don't want to seem condescending. Here goes:

Frozen Chocolate Bananas

3 bananas (see below on how to pick out the perfect banana)
6 oz semi-sweet, dark, or milk chocolate chips (your choice)
1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
sprinkles or nuts
popsicle sticks or skewers
(parchment paper)

Slice your bananas in half. Freeze for 15-20 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine your chocolate chips and oil and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then heat another 30 seconds. Stir again (that did it for me, but if you need to keep going, just do 30 seconds at a time till your chocolate has melted).

Insert the popsicle sticks / skewers in the bananas. Dip in chocolate. Sprinkle with your toppings. Set aside on parchment paper.

Freeze another 15-20 minutes before serving. You can keep the bananas in an airtight container in the freezer for several days.

*Picking the perfect banana:
For this recipe, you will want to pick out a banana that is all yellow (no green at all) but with very few spots. If no spots, your banana will taste "raw." If few spots, it will be ripe enough but still firm. If very spotty, your gonna get a mushy banana, great for banana bread but not for this recipe...
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bustier Cake!

This past weekend, I was charged with making a bustier cake (and a penis cake or, as I like to call it, a rocket cake) for a lingerie shower for a friend. I fretted for about two weeks, debating the best method, the right frosting, the decorating...I think I worried more about this cake than I did my last work interview.

I did a lot of research (google images) and asked for sage baking advice from Michelle at work ( The conclusion we came to was that baking the boobies in a bowl and doing a chocolate ganache frosting would be best. I lost my nerve on the ganache as I am completely inexperienced in this area and, as a last ditch effort, I went with homemade cream cheese frosting.

The first go at the frosting was lumpy and homemade-looking. Some quick thinking led me to the sink for some hot water on my finger tips. Using this method, I smoothed out the frosting to make a more professional(professional for me, anyways)-looking frosting. Eureka! It worked!

The final touch was the "lace." The design was ripped from a google image of someone else's bustier cake attempt.

All in all, a complete and total success! Angela, the bride-to-be, was a little skeptical when I told her I made it myself. I consider this the ultimate form of flattery. She thanked me for the cake, while I mentally thanked her for giving me the opportunity to bake something so fun!
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cake Balls

Welcome to my Sunday project! Have you heard of cake balls? I recently discovered these when I ran across an article on about a lady in Dallas who makes these (and apparently we sell then at Neiman Marcus though I did look online and didn't find any). Since then, I've been talking to (some might say "bugging") people at work asking if they have ever had these, made these, and or had any advice to dispense before I got started. Well, I didn't get any advice at work, but I did enough research today to boost my cake-ball-making confidence.

These were pretty easy to make (though they do require a lot of chilling / freezing time), but the thing that frustrated me the most was the lack of real step-by-step instruction on how to make these so I'll be a little more detailed than usual.

Cake Balls

1 box, yellow cake mix (and the necessary ingredients to make that cake)
1 package cream cheese or neufchatel, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12-oz bag of milk chocolate chips
Nuts or sprinkles or fleur de sel
Parchment or waxed paper

Bake the cake according to the directions on the package.
While the cake is baking, mix together the cream cheese and confectioners sugar to make cream cheese frosting.
Once the cake is done, crumble it in a large mixing bowl with the cream cheese frosting and condensed milk. You want it to have the same consistency as your cornbread dressing.
Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

After chilling, make little balls out of the cake mixture. To ensure a consistent size, you can use a tablespoon or melon baller. Place the cake balls on parchment or waxed paper.
Freeze for at least 4 hours.

In a small bowl, combine an even mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave another 15-30 seconds. It's best to melt the chocolate in batchessince it does tend to be easier to dip the cake balls when the chocolate is warm.
Pick up a cake ball, drop it in the chocolate and, with two toothpicks, turn the cake ball to coat completely in chocolate.
Set aside on parchment or waxed paper and sprinkle with your topping before the chocolate sets.

Once you're done with dipping, let the chocolate set in the fridge or the freezer.


1. All the recipes I found called for either Almond Bark or Confectioner Wafer Coating. I think the consistency for Confectioner Wafer coating is a bit different from regular chocolate chips. You can get these wafers at the grocery store in the same section where you find chocolate chips.

If I were to guess, it would probably be more like the chocolate you get your ice cream dipped in at Dairy Queen. Next time I make these, I'll use the wafers since the chocolate chips made for a really thick coating. You can get these wafers at the grocery store in the same section where you find chocolate chips.

Additionally, if you want to do different colors, you can get the white wafers and color with oil-based candy dye.

2. You can make all sorts of flavor combinations. Check out these suggestions.
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Whole Roasted Sea Bass

I hate to admit it, but I have no emotional ties to sea bass like some other people seem to have. From the way some people rave about it, you would think that not only did they eat that delicious sea bass, but they raised it, sent it to school, put an Honor Roll bumper sticker on the minivan for it, and walked it down the aisle. Not me. To be perfectly honest, I picked this up at these up at the store because they were on cheap (3 whole frozen sea bass for just under $5 - obviously not the fancy Chilean sea bass.) That being said, I'm glad I did.

Here's what I did with them:

Scaled & removed the fins
Seasoned with kosher salt (liberally) & freshly ground black pepper
Stuffed with flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, and slices of lemon
Drizzled with olive oil & lemon juice
Topped with scallions
Roasted at 450 degrees for 18 minutes
Served with salad & toasted french bread

Once you've cooked the fish, cut along the backbone from the head to tail to separate the flesh from the bone. You'll be able to lift the top fillet to get to the bones. You can then lift up the bones and serve the remaining fillet.

The sea bass I picked up was Ecuadorian. It's commonly used in ceviche. If you're familiar with ceviche, then you'll know that this fish is light in flavor and has the flakiness of salmon (not too flaky but not firm like tuna.)

For more flavor next time, I would probably use garlic oil instead of plain olive oil. You can make garlic oil by chopping some garlic and heating up some olive oil over medium heat, being careful not to burn the garlic. After removing the garlic, you could pour the oil over the fish just before roasting.
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Soak just about anything in condensed milk and top with real whipped cream and chances are I will eat it. Could this be why tres leches cake is just a little too hard for me to resist? Ok, so I have to preface this recipe by telling you that I go to the gym 5 times a week. I have to. There are just some things in life for which you are willing to sacrifice. See below:

Tres Leches Cupcakes

1 box of regular yellow or white cake mix, prepared (should make 24 cupcakes) + 2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Bake your cake mix according to the instructions for cupcakes (plus the 2 tbsp lemon zest), or you can use this made-from-scratch recipe (minus the poppy seeds). If you are, in fact, making cupcakes, you'll definitely want to use baking cups.

While you're waiting for your cupcakes to bake, mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk in a saucepan and cook over medium heat till just boiling. Stir frequently. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and cool completely.

After the cupcakes have finished baking, keep them in the pan. Using a toothpick or the thin end of a chopstick, poke holes in the cupcakes. Drizzle the tres leches sauce over the cupcakes. Cover and chill.

In a large mixing bowl, beat whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Once the cupcakes have cooled, or immediately before serving, spread the whipped cream over the tops of the cupcakes.


Tres leches translates to "three milks."

I saw a recipe for tres leches cake that included fresh strawberries in between the layers. For cupcakes, you could spread strawberry preserves on top before topping with whipped cream. Or you could top the whipped cream with slices of strawberry.

A friend at work recommended sprinkling cinnamon on top of the whipped cream.
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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

What is is about cold weather that makes people want to bake? In our house, when it's cold outside (and inside too), the two warmest options are to sit in the sunny room and read till you fall asleep or hang out in the kitchen while something is baking. As for me, I choose the latter. Naps are nice, but bread is nicer.

I did a quick Google search for cinnamon raisin bread, and this was the first result:

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup raisins
8 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water, and set aside until yeast is frothy. Mix in eggs, sugar, butter or margarine, salt, and raisins. Stir in cooled milk. Add the flour gradually to make a stiff dough.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Place in a large, greased, mixing bowl, and turn to grease the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Moisten dough with 2 tablespoons milk. Mix together 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and sprinkle mixture on top of the moistened dough. Roll up tightly; the roll should be about 3 inches in diameter. Cut into thirds, and tuck under ends. Place loaves into well greased 9 x 5 inch pans. Lightly grease tops of loaves. Let rise again for 1 hour.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 minutes, or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when knocked. Remove loaves from pans, and brush with melted butter or margarine. Let cool before slicing.


This recipe turned out nice and moist, and the final brush of melted butter on the bread kept the crust from turning hard. It also kept for several days in the fridge.

The only problem with this recipe is that we had a lot left over. What could you do with leftovers?

-You could share with your friends if you're feeling generous.
-You could make French toast.
-You could even cut the bread into smaller cubes, drizzle with melted butter, and bake till you have sweet croutons to top your fruit salad. (Did I just invent something here?)
-Or how about bread pudding? *gasp*
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cioppino (Seafood Stew)

I can't tell you how many times I've thought about trying to make cioppino. Something about seafood soup is almost overwhelmingly appealing to me. As I sat at our kitchen table this Saturday thinking about how bored I was, how cold it was, and how crabby I was about to be, I resolved to pick out a recipe and make it my Saturday afternoon project. What better choice than cioppino, which would require a trip to Central Market (whoo-hoo!) for mussels and other fresh seafood, would require the use of my favorite kitchen equipment (the pretty red Dutch oven) and would warm me up on this frigid day?

I found several recipes on for cioppino. If you know me, you know that I glanced at all of them and made up my own from bits and pieces of each.

Here's what I came up with:

1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
1 whole bay leaf
1 1/2 cup zinfandel
1 (28oz) cans stewed tomatoes, crushed or cut into smaller pieces
2 cups vegetable (or fish) stock
1 cup clam juice
1 lb mussels
1 lb mahi-mahi (or other firm fish), cut into 1-in cubes
1/2 lb bay scallops (optional)
1/2 lb squid, sliced into rings (optional)
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 lemon
sourdough to serve with the soup

In a large pot, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes or till the onion is translucent.
Add wine and boil till reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, stock, and clam juice, season with salt, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Season according to your taste as this will be the last time you season.
Add the mussels and squid and cook for about 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes, take out the opened mussels and cook the closed ones for another few minutes. Discard any that haven't opened after 10 minutes of cooking.
Add the fish and scallops and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Remove bay leaf.
Serve immediately over the mussels with sourdough bread and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

1. One of the reasons I have always been hesitant to make this is that I don't know if all of the cioppino I made would be eaten that day. I discovered the solution to this problem. Once you have made your soup (without the seafood), you can split your batch in half. Add half of your seafood to half of your soup and save the rest for tomorrow or day-after-tomorrow (but not any longer than that).

2. I might suggest adding some tomato paste to the soup when you add your tomatoes. I liked the result from the recipe above, but it might have been a bit better with a heartier tomato taste.

3. I ended up with more seafood than soup; if you are ok with that, keep the recipe as is. Otherwise, you may want to add more liquid and adjust the seasoning to compensate.

4. Notice a lot of the seafood I added to the recipe is optional. I think the key ingredients are mussels and fish. Everything else is a tasty bonus. Feel free to add crab legs, lobster, clams, etc.

All in all, a success for a first attempt.

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