Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday, my God Sister, Calix, came over to visit my little family before we move back to Sacramento, which will be on July 12th. I had baked white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies and she baked peanut butter chocolate chip the night before so we exchanged goodies! Her cookies were very delicious, but although they were soft I wanted them to be a bit more chewy. Since I am moving, I want to try to use as much ingredients from the fridge as possible. I had a 1/2 cup of peanut butter left in a jar so I decided to make more peanut butter cookies. Here’s the link to the recipe my sister used. If you like soft cookies but don’t care for the chewiness this recipe is for you! However, if you like a chewy cookie try my recipe below.

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 + 1/2 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips (optional)

Beat together butter and peanut butter until well combined.  Add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and mix just until blended.  Roll balls of dough in white sugar before placing on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 14 minutes.  Do not over bake, they shouldn’t get brown. They’ll look a little puffy and undercooked but they’re not!  Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 16 cookies

Rustic Bow Tie Pasta

My future mother-in-law gave me cherry tomatoes from a farmers market this past weekend. I could’ve gone the easy way out and had them with some salad or even eatm them by itself. But, I thought why not use them to make pasta for dinner. I already had pasta bow tie pasta in the pantry and fresh basil so I didn’t even have to go to the market for anything. I don’t have an exact recipe but if you cook, you’ll get the gist of it.

Here’s what I did:

  • minced a few cloves of garlic
  • diced a quarter of a medium sized onion
  • chopped about 10 leaves of fresh basil
  • removed the casing from one Italian sausage
  • washed the cherry tomatoes (probably equaled to a small box you could buy at the store
  • cooked enough pasta for two

I took a medium sized pot and brought water to a boil. As the water was heating up, I sautéed the garlic and onion until it was fragrant. Then I tossed in the tomatoes and when they started to burst open I smashed them until it started making a sauce. That’s when I started cooking the bow tie pasta (you could use any pasta you wanted to though) which took 10 minutes to become al dente, then I threw in the basil and sausage into the skillet I was using for the sauce, as the tomatoes started to cook down I put some of the water that the pasta was cooking in into the skillet, cooked it down some more for a few minutes and by the time the pasta was done the sauce was done too, so I strained it and put it right into the skillet, tossed it all together and was ready for dinner!

If you decide to try this, I hope you like it. It was very fresh and easy. 🙂

Father’s Day Weekend and Breakfast

If you live in the Bay Area and have never been or are a tourist looking for some daytime fun, I would suggest going to the California Academy of Sciences. Khanh, Elsa and I enjoyed a lovely day there on Saturday. Admission is $30/Adult. I definitely thought it was worth the money. We were there for about 3 hours, would have been longer but we didn’t get to go into the Planetarium because Elsa isn’t old enough. Anyway, there were many different exhibits and we walked around for a good while when I started getting really hungry. They have a restaurant there called The Moss Room, but there wasn’t anything we felt like eating on the menu so we had a nice little lunch in the cafeteria which had many different options. Khanh had fried chicken and chips and I had a reuben sandwich that I thought was pretty good.

After lunch, we continued on… my favorite part of the day was seeing the live animals. Even though it was Father’s Day Weekend, I couldn’t have asked for more. It was an amazing day with an amazing man and our baby.

After our eventful day yesterday, we just wanted to relax. I did wake up a little earlier than him to make a Father’s Day brunch. I recently learned how to make pancakes from scratch so I decided to make banana pancakes, a side of bacon (because he’s the biggest bacon fan I know) and blueberries to garnish.

I found a delicious recipe on the Food Network for blueberry buttermilk pancakes. I made those a few days ago and it was a success, so I used the same recipe but substituted the berries for a ripened banana. I hope you like them as much as we did.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 21/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, plus some for frying
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Serving suggestions: whipped cream and maple syrup

Directions

In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients into a lumpy batter, being careful not to over mix, see Cook’s Note*.

Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and sprinkle the top with some of the blueberries. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and maple syrup.

*Cook’s Note: Over mixed batter will result in flat, heavy pancakes.

Eggplant and Green Bean Stir-Fry

This is something the hubby and I like to eat pretty regularly. I thought since this is something we really enjoy it’d be a good way to start sharing my recipes. I don’t normally cook with exact measurements when it comes to dinner, I just make everything to taste. Measuring and weighing everything was a first for me. I tried the recipe twice and it’s perfect (at least it is to us)! So, I hope you all will like it as much as we do!

Servings: 2  Prep Time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces sliced eggplant (about 1 Asian eggplant)
  • 4 ounces green beans
  • 2 green onion stalks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbs vegetable/olive or any kind of cooking oil

Sauce:

  • 5 tbs water
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili oil
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce

Directions:

Trim the ends of the green beans then slice the eggplant diagonally and cut the pieces in half lengthwise. Cut the green onions in 1-inch pieces. Mince the garlic cloves and set aside.

In a little bowl, put 2 tablespoons of water in it and save the other 3 for later. Add the cornstarch to the water and mix until it’s dissolved.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.

Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat. Pour the oil in and wait for about a minute. Put the minced garlic in and stir with a wooden spatula until fragrant. Now add the green beans and turn the heat up to medium-high, stir for 1-2 minutes. Then add the eggplant and the rest of the water for about 5 minutes or until you’ve reached the desired tenderness of the vegetables. Turn the heat back down to medium and throw in the green onions and pour the sauce over and stir for about a minute or until the green onions are cooked. Serve with jasmine rice and enjoy!

Red (Wine) Velvet Cupcakes

I had been wanting to try this recipe for a couple of weeks. I just kept looking at the photo on gilt and imagining the velvety sweetness in my mouth. I had gone to target the other day to pick up a couple of items I needed and since I was already there I figured I’d try to pick up whatever ingredients I could for the recipe. This target had almost everything I needed, including wine; but, I didn’t feel like spending more than a few dollars for some wine I’d only be using to cook with. So I picked up a bottle of zinfandel from Trader Joe’s, only $3.99. Then I had to go looking for vanilla beans, I first stopped into Andronico’s but they only had a package that was 25 smackers! I definitely didn’t want to pay that much for something I didn’t know when I’d use again. I got home and called Whole Food’s, they had a few different packages ranging from $8-12. I picked up the cheapest one since this was a first-time-try recipe. It came with 2 vanilla beans but I only needed to use one. I’ll probably use the other one for creme brulee in the near future.

This is a layer cake recipe but there are only two adults and an infant in my household therefore a whole cake doesn’t make sense, so cupcakes it is! I divided the recipe by 4 to make about 10 cupcakes so we wouldn’t kill ourselves to finish them. The only thing I couldn’t find were the cocoa nibs, but I didn’t think they were all that important because it’s basically just garnish. The cupcakes still came out very tasty. 🙂

I have to say, it’s been about 4 days and I just had another one of these, they’re still extremely moist and delicious. You must try this recipe!

Here’s the Stella Parks’ recipe I copied and pasted from gilt:

Cream Cheese German Buttercream
Makes about 10 cups, enough to generously finish a 3-layer, 8-inch cake

I highly recommend making the buttercream before making the cake itself; the frosting will benefit significantly from a little refrigeration before use.

The average buttercream is 50 percent butter (or more!) but German buttercream, with its custard base, clocks in around 25 percent, making it rich (but dangerously consumable). And it’s not dissimilar to Red Velvet’s traditional cooked flour frostings (also known as ermine or boiled milk frosting), making it something that even our great grandparents would love.

16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped, seeds reserved for cake
10 ounces sugar (1¼ cups, by volume)
1½ ounces cornstarch (6 tablespoons by volume)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean pods (not the seeds; save those for the cake) to a simmer in a medium pot. Turn off the heat and set aside to steep for at least one hour, or as long as time allows.
  2. After steeping, remove the vanilla bean pods, using a rubber spatula to extract the thick vanilla milk from inside each. Return the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and yolks in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk about a half cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture—it will be thick at first but will loosen as the milk incorporates. Whisk in more hot milk until the egg mixture is fluid and warm. Next, whisk the tempered egg/milk mixture back into the pot of hot milk, putting on medium heat whisking all the while. Once the mixture starts to thicken and bubble sluggishly, continue whisking and cooking for a full minute more, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  4. The custard may be cooled quickly by mixing it continuously in a stand mixer. If time isn’t an issue, press a layer of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate until cool.
  5. In either case, once the custard has cooled, use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to whip it until creamy. Begin whipping in the cream cheese, one tablespoon at a time, until it has fully incorporated. Then repeat with the butter. Add the salt and whip a minute more.
  6. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to use, whip until creamy and proceed.

Red (Wine) Velvet Cake
Makes three 8-inch layers or about 42 cupcakes
Despite containing both “red sugar” and red wine, your batter will look purple-gray. Don’t worry! It bakes into a chocolaty brown cake.

12 ounces all purpose flour (about 2¾ cups if by volume)
2 ounces natural cocoa (½ cup if by volume)
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ounces safflower oil or other neutral flavored oil
18 ounces brown sugar (3 cups, moderately packed, if by volume)
1 teaspoon salt
2¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
scrapings from two vanilla bean pods or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
6 eggs, room temperature
12 ounces red wine (Zinfandels work especially well)
1½ ounces vanilla extract
1 batch cream cheese German buttercream (See above)

To finish:
5 ounces white chocolate, preferably in a block or bar
½ ounce cocoa nibs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and line three 8” by 2” cake pans with parchment rounds. Grease lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Sift together the flour and cocoa, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the butter, oil, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds. Use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to cream the ingredients for 10 minutes on medium speed. Periodically, stop mixing to scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula.
  4. Turn the mixer to medium low and add the eggs, one at a time. Continue mixing after each addition until the egg has fully incorporated before adding the next.
  5. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour/cocoa mixture alternately with the red wine in about three additions. Add the vanilla at the end. Shut off the mixer and give the batter a few turns with a rubber spatula to ensure a homogenous mix.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans (25 ounces each).
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The oil in the batter makes the cakes slightly more forgiving of over-baking, but try not to let it come to that. Bake until the cakes have puffed but will still retain a slight impression if touched gently with a fingertip. A toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs still attached.
  8. Cool the cakes on a wire rack. At first, they will have pronounced domes and a slightly gray-brown color, but as they cool the domes will settle down somewhat and the color will deepen. When they have cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan and invert onto a parchment lined tray or cooling rack. Continue cooling until no trace of warmth remains.
  9. Before frosting, use a serrated knife to level the cakes. If you have found this step difficult in the past, refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes beforehand, making them easier to handle and cut.
  10. Assemble the cake on a platter or cake stand, topping each layer with a generous amount of buttercream. Crumb coat by spreading a thin, smooth layer of buttercream over the tops and sides of the cake; this will prevent stray crumbs from flecking the finished layer. Refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 30 minutes before applying the final coating of buttercream to the top and sides.

To finish the cake:

When I learned that Red Velvet’s traditional accompaniment was a boiled milk frosting, I suddenly had visions of royalty. You see, boiled milk frosting is also known as ermine, a name meant to evoke the fluffy softness of fur. Of course, ermine and red velvet are the traditional trappings of English royalty, and even today the Pope himself wears a cape of red velvet and ermine. I couldn’t resist the sumptuous connotations and created a finish for the cake that would give Red Velvet its proper ermine robes.

To do this, I dust the cake with copious amounts of white chocolate shavings and cocoa nib “spots.” The white chocolate shavings are so fine that the heat of your mouth melts them completely before they hit the tongue, leaving only a sweet whisper of flavor and no discernible texture.

To create this finish, grate 5 ounces of white chocolate with a Microplane or Parmesan grater and dust the top and sides of the cake until completely coated. It’s easiest to use a folded piece of parchment paper as a “scoop” to distribute the white chocolate as the warmth of your hands will melt the chocolate.

Scatter the cocoa nibs over the cake in a haphazard manner to mimic ermine spots. To make the nibs stick to the side, you truly have to fling the nibs at the cake; it’s incredibly fun. Try it.

Grown Up Mac N Cheese

I looked in the fridge today and I realized I had too much cheese! I had a chunk of goat cheese and parmigiano-reggiano left from other dishes I made a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know what to do with all of it so I googled goat cheese recipes and this is what I found. I went through the recipe and realized I already had most of the ingredients. I just had to pick up some fresh parsley and since Khanh is a bacon-head, I picked up some thick cut bacon to add to the recipe. I followed the directions completely, only I cut the recipe in half because the one I’m posting serves 8. Before I started cooking the mac, I prepared my bacon. For half this recipe I used 3 strips of bacon. If you want to add bacon to the full recipe I’d use 6 strips. I like to cook my bacon in the oven because it’s less messy and doesn’t leave as much grease on it. If you have a metal baking sheet and a cooling rack that would be ideal, if not, you can use a broiling pan. Put the cooling rack on the baking sheet, lay the bacon strips on top and broil. It doesn’t take long so you’d have to stay close to the oven and watch them. When the bacon is crisp take it out and wait for it to cool and chop it up. When you pour the cheese sauce over the pasta add the bacon and mix. That’s how I prepared mine, but if you don’t like bacon it still tastes great without it!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound(s) penne
  • 3 cup(s) heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup(s) finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 10-ounce log goat cheese
  • 6 ounce(s) sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 packed cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup(s) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon(s) chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoon(s) chopped thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 large egg yolks

before it went in the oven:

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 400° and butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta; return it to the pot.
  • 2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer with the onion and garlic. Transfer 1 cup of the cream to a bowl and whisk in the flour; return the mixture to the saucepan. Whisk over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese, cheddar and half of the Parmigiano until melted. Whisk in the sour cream, parsley, thyme and zest and season with salt and white pepper. In a bowl, gradually whisk 1 cup of the sauce with the egg yolks, then whisk the mixture into the saucepan.
  • 3. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat. Spread the pasta in the cast-iron skillet and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano. Bake for about 45 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let the mac and cheese rest for 15 minutes, then serve.

done baking:

Pineapple Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes once before and my cousin Matrix (yes, her name is really Matrix!) from Los Angeles requested that I bake them for her again while she was here visiting me. The first time I made these cupcakes I used vegetable oil. But lately I’ve been trying out different recipes with coconut oil and I thought this one was a success. The thing about substituting vegetable oil with coconut oil is that it’s solid in cooler climates so you have to melt it down. It melts to the touch so it’s really easy. One way you can melt it is by preheating your oven and putting the oil on top of the stove while you prep your other ingredients. I like to put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. But, when you’re mixing the melted oil with cold ingredients it gets hard again so you have to use a double boiler to whisk it together. It takes a little extra work but I think it’s worth it. This is a delicious recipe I hope you like it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

Makes:

About 18 standard cupcakes. Each cupcake serves 1.

Instructions:

Step 1

Preheat oven to 325°F. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In separate metal mixing bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. If the coconut oil starts to harden and becomes chunky put the mixing bowl over a saucepan of warm/simmering water and whisk gently until it’s melted again and fully blended. Stir in the sugar and pineapple. Add flour mixture; mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

Step 2

Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack; remove and cool completely before decorating.

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Stew) Leftovers

I had leftover stew last night for dinner. Leftovers can be a drag to eat sometimes but this time I enjoyed it like I just made it! If you read my earlier post you’ll know I got the recipe from The Ravenous Couple. They suggest having it with pho noodles, but I like using the thicker pho noodles that are also used in pad thai. If there’s an Asian market near you you can usually find a pack of fresh noodles that’s enough for 2-3 bowls. I got mine from 99 Ranch in Daly City. All you need to do is reheat your stew, get another pot and boil water, put your fresh noodles in the pot of boiling water for a minute or two to soften them up and get the excess oil off, and put the noodles in the bowl add the stew, and voila! bon apetit!

Spam, Egg and Toast

A few months ago Khanh and I bought reduced sodium SPAM from Costco. And we all know, if you buy anything from Costco you’ve got a ton of it. So what do you do with all this spam? One way I like to have it is with breakfast. It’s so simple and you don’t have to add any extra grease because the spam will cook in it’s own fat. Khanh doesn’t normally eat breakfast so this meal is just for one. I have one slice of toast. I like to eat Alvarado St. Bakery California Style bread because each slice is only 90 calories, 15g of carbs and has 5g of protein. Two slices of spam and a poached egg. A lot of people think making a poached egg is difficult but it’s not! I only started making them a couple weeks ago and now I’m a pro! I prepare everything to finish at about the same time.

Ingredients:

1 slice of toast
2 slices of spam
1 egg
1 tbs white vinegar
dash of salt

Directions:

Crack your egg and put it into a shot glass or some kind of small container (I like using a 1/3 cup measuring cup because it’s got a handle). Fill a medium saucepan about 3/4 full with water and bring to boil then lower down to a simmer. Put the spam in a nonstick fry pan at medium-high heat and let it sit while you prepare you egg. Pour the white vinegar in the pot of simmering water and throw in the dash of salt. Stir it with a whisk and make sure you’ve got the water whirling around quite a bit (this is the most important part of poaching your egg) and pour the egg in the direction of the whirling water. You’ll see the egg white wrapping around your yolk. Let it sit for 3 minutes. During the three minutes flip your spam and put your bread in the toaster. When the three minutes is up take out the egg with a slotted spoon and put it on top of your spam and toast. Enjoy!

P.S. I’ll try to put up a video of how to poach an egg at some point. 🙂

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

I can cook a lot of things, but when it comes to Vietnamese food I usually let my mom do the cooking… but, she’s older now and I can’t expect her to cook for me forever. I had been craving this dish for awhile and a couple weeks ago I had it at a restaurant and it just wasn’t that great. I needed to get my fix. Good Vietnamese food doesn’t really exist in San Francisco so I had to make my own. I found the recipe on www.theravenouscouple.com and the pictures looked pretty good so I tried it. I have to say, it’s pretty darn good! I skipped out on the beef tendon strips because Khanh doesn’t care for it too much, other than that I followed the recipe. You can find all the ingredients at an Asian market. I got everything I needed at 99 Ranch in Daly City.

The recipe follows:

Ingredients:

2 lbs beef shank, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1/2 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
2 beef tendon strips or about 1/2 lb
1 stalk of lemongrass (white end bruised and slice into 4-5 inch stalk and tie together)
2 bay leaves
3-4 star anise seeds, (toasted optional)
32 oz of beef broth
4 medium sized carrots
2 tbs annato seed oil (see cooks note)

Marinade
1 tbs diced shallots
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs minced lemongrass
1/2 tbs fish sauce
1/2 ts red chili powder
1/4 ts cinnamon
1/4 ts clove powder
1/4 ts anise powder
1 ts ground pepper
1 ts sugar

Accompaniments
Toasted French baguettes
Fresh Basil
Pickled Onions
lime/lemon wedges
Diced cilantro and green onions
Sliced jalapenos
Rice noodles

Directions:

In large mixing bowl, combine the beef shank with the spice marinade for at least 2 hours.

Saute the beef with 1 tbs of annato seed oil until browned and seared under medium high heat. Transfer this into the slow cooker. Add the beef tendons, stalk of lemonsgrass, star anise seeds, bay leaves, and beef broth. You may need to add more broth or water to just cover and submerge the beef.

Set slow cooker to lowest possible setting and allow to cook covered for overnight or about 8 hours. About 1 hour before it’s done, add the carrots. Just before serving add another 1 tbs of annato seed oil to the broth for a great red color. Make final adjustment and season to taste.

Cooks Notes:
You can also boil the tendon separately ahead of time on constant high boil for about 2 hours or until tender, then cut and add to the bo kho just before it’s done.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, simmer in big covered pot until beef is tender about 4 hrs.

To make annatto seed oil, heat 2 tbs of olive with 1/2 of annato seeds. The oil will be steeped with a red color. Do not allow oil to boil, when the color is steeped red, turn of heat and drain the seeds.
Pickle onions the same way you pickle the carrots and daikon with dilute vinegar, sugar, and salt. (www.theravenouscouple.com)