Fortune cookies

fortune cookies

What’s better than opening a fortune cookie and know what you gonna get?  You may not know what happens after you say “I do”, but if you make it, your fortune shall come.

So, as I was thinking of ideas for parting gifts or favors for a bridal dinner, I thought wouldn’t it be romantic to have personalized fortune cookies?  I researched online and it was costly especially if you consider the shipping costs.  The ingredients were inexpensive but the methods took some practice.  Since you had to make these right out of the oven while they are still hot since you need to bend them while it is still pliable. I dipped these in candy melts and  added edible pearls for a touch of elegance.  But, you can make add cocoa powder to make them chocolate fortune cookies and dipped them in white for a black/white theme look as well.  That is the good things about making them since the options are endless!

But it was worth it in the end, since I was able to insert romantic quotes from popular books and Buddha.  Since the bride to be is Buddhist, I was able to find spiritual inspirations for her.  I also included my favorite lines from Little Women such as “she will be rich in the possession of a good man’s heart, and that is better than a fortune.”

I gave these to the girls packaged in a hand made take out box.  Now, handmade cookies and fortunes that I had a hand in is like a red cherry on top of a great dessert.

 


New Orleans French Quarter Festival

So, I thought that New Orleans would make an ideal girl trip.  It meets my foodie criteria:  beignets, gumbo, oyster, bread pudding, crawfish pies!  Best of all, it happened to be the weekend of French Quarter festival.  Since we only had a day, the festival brought all the great restaurants of NOLA in one place. We literally ate our way the entire day.  In fact, we began and ended our day with beignets.

Here is what us four girls ate in just one day:

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde

Gumbo and bread pudding at The Gumbo Shop

We walked a few blocks to Acme Oysters for some chargrilled oysters and fried oyster and shrimp po-boys

    

 

Now, that was only appetizers, since they were just setting up for the festival.  But once the food vendors were set up, I headed straight to what I was waiting for: crawfish pie and duck po-boys.  We had both crawfish pies from Lasyones meat and company as well as Mrs. Wheat pies.  Both were good but the Lasyone was more crunchy and flavorful.  At Jacque Imo’s, we had the duck po-boy as well as the alligator cheesecake.

We also had the goat crepe at Muriels.  The other girls loved it but goat is not my thing.

  

As if Acme oyster house did not satiate satisfied our curiosity for chargrilled oysters, we took the trolley to Hilton for Dragos.  The original location is actually in Metaire.  But, this location was convenient being that it is accessible via trolley and next to Harrah’s casino.  I personally liked chargrilled oysters at Dragos than Acme.  Although both are good,  Draogos oysters were bigger and not too charred so the oyster taste and texture was more appreciated.  We also had the crabmeat stuffed lobster as well as their house gumbo.  The gumbo was salty and not authentic tasting as the Gumbo Shop.

  

  

Now, what food trip with a few girls withous some booze to go with these delicious dishes?  We went to Bourbon street and had a few hurricans and other fruity drinks.  But, we did ended the evening with another round of beignets and coffee.


Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins

I guess you know figured my love for blueberry muffins?  I have seen and tried so many flavors at central market.  They even have ginger and pear and apricot as well.  But somehow, I am always loyal to the berry kind..especially plump blueberries that burst in your mouth.  I like my muffins to have blueberries in every bite!  Unlike the tiny, dried blueberries you find in the prepackage muffins.  These muffins are so simple to make that my daughter whipped them up for her lunch snack.  With summer around the corner, you’ll bet I will be using blueberries in many of my desserts.  As soon as I filled the muffin liners with the batter,  I like to top extra blueberries before baking them.  Now that is like a red cherry on top a great dessert.

Jordon Marsh Blueberry muffins

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups unsifted flour
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups large fresh blueberries
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar (for top of muffins)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients. (You can use an electric mixer to combine the dry ingredients thoroughly at this point so that you won’t need to overmix once the wet and dry ingredients are combined.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar mixture along with the milk and vanilla.

Optionally, mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries, and stir in by hand (this will turn batter a light shade of blue and add a touch of blueberry flavor, but this step may be skipped, if you wish). Add the remaining whole berries and stir in gently by hand.

Spray a 12 muffin baking pan with Baker’s Joy (or other non-stick spray). Fill greased muffin cups.

Sprinkle sugar on top of unbaked muffins (we like to use Turbinado sugar for sprinkling the tops).

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin after several minutes to free it from the pan and cool on wire racks. Muffins may be brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar, if desired.

At our test kitchen, we sometimes sprinkle blueberry muffin tops with cinnamon sugar or ground hazelnuts or spread with lemon or vanilla icing and top with thinly sliced almonds.

Tip: If you have trouble with blueberries settling to the bottom try tossing them in flour before adding to the batter. It may just be that your batter is too thin. Another trick is to fill muffin cups 1/4 full with batter which hasn’t had blueberries added to it yet; then stir the blueberries in and continue to fill the muffin cups. This way you won’t start out with blueberries at the bottom!

 


German chocolate and tiriamisu cupcakes

  

We made several cupcakes at central market cooking class: german chocolate, tiramisu and almond joy (not shown).  I was simply on a sugar high that afternoon.  But, I must admit that I have a new found love for german chocolate.  The frosting was so delicious on its own that I literally could eat it by the spoonful.  I may make extra frosting to use it as topping for my pancakes or waffles.  What not to lover about walnuts, coconut, butter and condensed milk.

The mascapone filling for the tiriamisu cupcake was melt in your melt delicious.  But, the white cupcake batter could have been better.  I think it needed some sort of kahula or alcohol syrup brush on it be a true tiriamisu.  The coffee buttercream was way too sweet for my taste.

I added my own touch, by topping the tiramisu cupcakes with a chocolate covered coffee bean.  Now that is like a red cherry on top of a great dessert!

 


old fashion linzer cookies

There is something about a jam filled cookie.  Perhaps it’s as if you are a child again eating a peanut butter jelly sandwich.  The thought conjures images of a being young and having your face smeared with jelly. These beautiful cookies are like a window pane of baked goodness.  Not only are they delicate but elegant as well.  I packaged these into individual clear cellophane bags and gave to my valentines.

The filling looks the best with seedless rasberry jam, but I only had strawberry on hand.  For spring or summer you can use apricot or peach jam.  Be sure to dust the tops with confectioners sugar just like a red cherry on top of a lovely dessert.

Old fashion linzer cookies

Ingredients (3 dozen cookies)

  • 2/3 cup of chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam
  • A linzer tart cookie cutter, or a large scalloped cutter and small circle cutter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toast chopped hazelnuts in a thin layer until fragrant, watching closely to ensure they do not burn. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Remove any loose skins and cool.
  3. Add nuts and 1/4 cup brown sugar to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. There should be no large pieces of hazelnuts – it should be a cornmeal consistency.
  4. Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  5. Cream together the butter and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add nut mixture and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  6. With floured hands, form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.
  7. While dough chills, add jelly to a small sauce pan over low heat. Stir jelly and allow to reduce until thickened – about 10 minutes.
  8. Roll out 1 disk of dough into an 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) using as little flour as possible to dust the work surface and rolling pin. Keep the dough as cold as possible. Cut out as many solid cookies bottoms as possible from the first disk of dough and transfer to 2 large baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart.
  9. Using the second disk of dough, cut out the cookie tops either with a linzer top cutter, or by using the cutter for the bottom cookies and a smaller cutter for the center. Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
  10. Keeping the tops of the cookies separate, dust tops of cookies with powdered sugar until completely covered. Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on top of each solid cookie bottom and sandwich jam with flat side of the top cookies. Enjoy immediately or freeze to enjoy later on.

 


White chocolate macadamia nuts blondies bars

You can turn any cookie into a bar.  In fact, it is great time saver since it does not require so many cookie sheets like regular cookie dough.  You just bake your dough in a large rectangular pan and cut into bars!  I may try to cut it to fancy diamond or triangle shape.  But who is gonna eat the leftover edges?  Your truly of course!

I did not realize how much dishes can pile up when I bake.  The chef on cooking shows makes it looks so quick and easy since they have someone else to prep and clean up for them! From measuring cups, spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls, hand mixer,sheets, and pans, etc. So you will see me making lots of bars, brownies, and bundts desserts these days.

These bars are tasty with the buttery flavor from the macadamias and the sweetness from the white chocolate and browns sugar.

    

White Chocolate macadamia nuts blondies (source: Erin food files)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound, plus 1 teaspoon butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and rough chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place 1/2 pound of the butter and the brown sugar in a bowl and cream together on medium speed until a smooth batter is formed. While the machine is running, add the eggs and vanilla extract, until incorporated into the batter.
  3. Sift together 3 cups flour and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter and mix on low speed until a dough is formed. Very gently, by turning the mixer on and then off, fold the chips and nuts into the dough.
  4. Once the dough is all blended, grease a 9 x 13 pan with the remaining butter and dust with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until set yet still moist.


Rum and kahlua cake

In honor of fat tuesday and mardi gras, I wanted to give some booze to my fellow coworkers. Well, perhaps indirectly in a form of bundt cake.  Who says you can’t eat your cake and drink it too? So, make this cake and lift everyone’s spirits.

I did not want to make an all rum cake since I was given some kahula.  Besides, I finally had a reason to use up the Appleton Jamaican rum I got on our vacation to Jamaica awhile ago.   I had a lot of positive comments regarding this cake.  It even tasted better than the Tortuga cake from the caribbean.  I usually would bring rum cake from the caribbean places that I visited it.  I would haggle to get a good price.  Hey, I just love to haggle period.  Well, no more searching the tourist shops for me,  but you want a bite of this, you may try to haggle a slice from me!

So, add some booze to your life and share it if you feel like it (or if there are still some left)

 

     

This recipe is actually from a cake mix that has been jazzed up.  I am usually not fan of cake mix but somehow it works for this recipe.

Rum cake:

Duncan Hines Butter Recipe cake mix

1 small pkg Instant Vanilla Pudding ( I used french vanilla flavor)

4 Eggs

½ C Meyer’s white Rum (I used 1/4 c of rum and 1/4 c of kahula)

½ C Vegetable Oil

½ C Water

 In electric mixer, beat eggs; add the remaining cake ingredients beat on medium speed for 4 minutes.  Pour into a well greased Bundt pan and bake at 350⁰ for about 50 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes.

 Glaze:

1 stick (8 Tbsp) Butter

¼ C Meyer’s dark Rum

½ C Water

1 C Sugar

In a small saucepan melt the butter and then stir in the remaining ingredients; boil for 3 minutes.

Pour over the warm cake still in the Bundt pan.

Cool for 1 hour before removing.

This cake is best on the second day.


Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing

They say that you revert back to a child as you get older.  I recently found this to be true since I am suddenly into peanut butter (and jelly) lately.  I would make a PBJ sandwich for my son and eat half of it before handing it to him.  There is just something about that sticky peanut butter on the roof of your mouth that is so satisfying.

With that, I decided to take my new found love for peanut butter and combine it with my true love: chocolate.  Just don’t speak of this in front of my hubby.  But, I think he is starting to realize that he cannot compete with chocolate.  Just like a reeses peanut butter cup,  this cupcake is a combo made in heaven.

I feel that the slight saltiness from the peanut butter enhances the sweetness from the chocolate cupcake.  To take it a notch up, I garnish this little babies with a few caramel balls.  Now, that is like a red cherry on top of a great dessert.

 

 

Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing (source: Barefoot Contessa)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional
Directions:

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

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.


fruit tart

I tried to be a bit fancy by making a fruit tart.  I thought I would give pie or tart making a try.  I must admit that making pie crust is not my forte.  Somehow, the simplest thing is the hardest for me.  The crust is made of ground almonds and it was sort of like a cookie crust.  The crust was crumbly as I tried to roll it with my rolling pin.  So, I gave up and press it directly into my tart pan.   Admittedly, I need to work on the crust so that it does not break so easily.  However, the pastry cream was divine.  It was not overly sweet but it was not firm enough.  I must say that tart is not a dessert that is easily sliced and serve.  Although it makes a beautiful dessert, it is a pain to slice. So, I thought of putting the broken crust and the cream into a individual parfait.  Am I not a genius?  I must say that small desserts are great way to cover up mishaps.  Other examples is using the brownie edges or any broken cookies as desserts jars as well.