roasted quail with watercress salad

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I felt inspired for a dinner with a different kind of salad…why not watercress salad?  It is a really fancy way to use watercress in place of romaine or baby spinach.  Placing these quail while still hot on a bed of watercress will slightly wilt the watercress.  I made a quick soy sauce and lime dressing and toss in a few grape tomatoes to finish off the dish.  The quail was marinated in a soy sauce and chinese five spice powder.

Roasted quail

6 quails (can be found packaged in frozen section)

1/2  tsp of chinese five spice powder

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp honey or sugar

Mix the ingredients and marinate quail overnight either in ziploc bag or casserole pan.  Remove the quail from marinade and roast for 45 minutes uncovered at 375 degrees.  May baste with marinade half way through.  Eat with rice or salad.


Hunger Games Theme Birthday

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Let the games begin!  Happy Birthday to my best friend:  ” May the odds be ever in your favor”

It took me awhile making these goody treats but was all worth it.  I would rather sacrifice my time than my children in a government sponsored battle of the Hunger Games. I wanted to do a basket with the District 12 log to to hold various treats as if being parachuted into the arena by the sponsors.  Among the goodies I created were handmade decorated sugar cookies with the mockingjay logo and monogrammed initial, mini blueberry muffins, chocolate cake pops,  and chocolate chip cookies.  Also had various candy and packaged the treats with various theme tags with words such as “girl on fire”, “nightlock berries and muffins: poison”, girl on “mellark bakery” that  I ordered from etsy.

  

I enjoyed decorating the cookies with dots and birthday girl initial.  They are quite simple and cute.  Now, the cake pops gave me a hard time.  The first time I made them awhile back, it was. Lately, however, they kept falling off the stick.  I even waited for the candy melts to cool down, but it was a hit and miss.  Most of them cracked after drying.  But, I had a few that were presentable.  I think I will give up on them since I have lost my touch.  But, doesn’t these flower pops make you happy. Perfect for any birthday girl or  for mothers day.  Best of all, you can eat them!  These cake pops were homemade devils chocolate cake.  Now, who wouldn’t battle it out for these yummy treats!

  

I tried to tie in the nightlock berry theme from the book with mini blueberry muffins.  After all, it was the crucial turning point of the first book.

I had better success with the sugar cookies than in the past.  Usually my dough was too sticky and not keep its shape.  After watching several online tutorials, I found a recipe that made flat cookies as my base for decorations.  Since I am not good at drawing the mockingjay onto the cookie itself, I did a royal icing transfer.  Basically drew out the design on parchment paper, piped it out, wait for it to dry, then put it onto the cookie.  A few did break since it was not flat but kind of 3D in a way.

 

 


Ultimate Banana bread

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Want to fill your home with a warm scent  without candles?  Bake some homemade banana bread.  I made this in the evening, and I cannot describe how wonderful my house smelled as the banana was baking in the oven.  I can always tell when the bread is done.. just follow your nose!  I had 4 black bananas in the freezer and a recipe I have been dying to try.  Alright, so the ripe black bananas out of the freezer did not look very pleasing, but that is the kind of ripe bananas you want for making a good banana bread.  Sometimes I would buy extra bananas just so that I have a few left over to make bread.  So, I know you’ve got some a few tired looking bananas on your kitchen counter right now;  toss them in the freezer and when you have about 4 or 6 of them..make this!

I have tired countless of recipe.  Some of my favorite uses sour cream, but who has that handy whenever you need it?  When it comes to using up old bananas, you have to whip it up with simple ingredients.  My past results did not have enough banana flavor but was moist since used vegetable oil.  I wanted a recipe with a blast of banana flavor and chunks of it.  But I also wanted it to be moist.  The recipe from America’s Test Kitchen had the flavor I wanted but it was not as moist and I would like.  Next time, I  will try to substitute half of the butter with canola oil used in the recipe.  Hey, I like my butter since I don’t like greasy banana bread.  But guess what else is in the bread?  only a handful of dark chocolate chips.. hey, this monkey needs her chocolate.  Also, I put slices of bananas on top of the bread banana so you know what you are eating.  So, bananas on top of banana bread is like a red cherry on top of a delicious dessert.

Ultimate banana bread (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 ¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cups liquid).

3. Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it’s reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle the banana slices on top of both sides of the loaf, leaving a 1½-inch-wide space down the center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Fairy jam thumbprints cookies

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What do you get with a 7 year old girl and a bake sale?  Colorful cookies with sprinkles! (and more sprinkles).   Anyone who is a girly girl knows that it is all about the sparkles and bling.  My daughter chose this cookie and I agreed to help her since the ingredients are simple enough. (Actually, I had a few jars of jams I needed to use up). This  was the first recipe we made from her Fairies cookbook that she just had to have from Amazon.  My kitchen ended up a mess with left over dough and jams everywhere.  But, I think of it as mess you can eat.  i suggest baking these halfway thru and then adding the jelly since my first batch melted in the centers. Next time you need something for a bake sale, make these buttery and sparkly cookies.  After all, sprinkles are just like red cherry on top of a great dessert.

 


Dark chocolate devils cupcake and cake

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I needed a chocolate fix..so if I am gonna treat myself.. Yes, I am worth it!   So, here is a devils chocolate cake with a dark chocolate frosting.  It is totally rich and decadent.  This is a dessert where chocolate is the star so use the best chocolate you can get your hands on.  I used some dark chocolate drops from central market bulk section.  I heard that the dark chocolate bars from Traders Joes are actually from Belgium.  I gotta stock up some whenever a Trader Joes opens up near me.  The chocolate cake recipe and frosting are both from Martha Stewart cupcake book that a friend gave me.  The recipe used butter instead of oil.  I know oil would make it more moist but I prefer butter in my desserts.  As for the frosting, I did not have semi sweet chocolate so I used dark chocolate.  So, the results was more intense chocolate than most people may be used to.  Dark chocolate is better for you.  It’s true.  I think it  was published somewhere.. Anyways, I topped these off with a red raspberry.  Afterall, chocolate and raspberry are a great combination.  It is like a red cherry on top of a great dessert.

  

  

  

Devils cupcake (source: martha stewart)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • Chocolate Ganache Frosting  ( I used her dark chocolate frosting recipe)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.