Friday, March 29, 2013

Creamy pasta with bacon, ricotta and tomato

Now, doesn't that sound good ^^?

It's extremely easy too, if you cheat with bottled tomato ricotta sauce :p.. Not that you should, of course. ^^

Creamy bacon, ricotta and tomato sauce (inspired from thekitchn)
~ serves 4
4 slices of streaky bacon, sliced/diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sundried tomatoes, sliced thin
1 bottle of tomato ricotta sauce
1 tbsp of tomato puree
a dash of extra virgin olive oil
cooked pasta, of own preference

1. Saute bacon in a non-stick pan till golden and fragrant. Add diced onions and minced garlic, and stir fry till onions turned translucent or cooked. For some zing, add finely sliced sundried tomatoes.

2. Mix in ready-made tomato ricotta sauce (add some pasta water to dilute sauce a little if preferred). Add tomato puree if you like a more tangy sauce and bring sauce to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, add a dash (or two ^^) of evoo and remove from heat.

3. Mix pasta with the sauce till well combined, and serve immediately.

I know, I shouldn't resort to bottled sauces.. but that bottle of tomato ricotta sauce looked too enticing on the supermarket shelf! I couldn't resist! ^^||

When fatty hubby requested pasta for dinner, I knew that bottle of sauce would come in handy ^^! A cheat-cook gotta do what a cheat cook does best with the limited resources that she has! ;p

I'm really not big about pasta and all.. so I really didn't expect much of this.

But this sauce just became my favorite tomato based sauce.. ever!!! ^^ I really, really, really like this.. big time!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hummingbird cake.. the way I like it ^^

I couldn't help myself.. mini chocolate easter eggs are just toooo cuuute! I just had to grab a pack, especially since it's in white chocolate ~ chubby pig's favorite! ^^

And I couldn't help giving myself a pat on my shoulders for spotting some dole bananas going at half price ~ the skins were a little spotty, otherwise they were perfect for a banana bake! I'm such a savvy consumer, haha! Wonder why I've never noticed such bargains before?? ^^

Anyway, it's been a year since I made hummingbird cake, and while I enjoyed the first bake, I knew if I were to make it again, I wanted to make it using the butter-creaming and egg-separation method.. with a less watery frosting! So here goes ^^

Hummingbird Cake (see previous post for an easy one-bowl mix/southern way!)

1 cup / 250g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar (not necessary to reduce further ^^)
4 medium eggs yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
375g self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
75ml pineapple juice/syrup (from crushed pineapples)
300g undrained pineapples, crushed (use pineapple rings, not tidbits or chunks!)
3-4 large / 400g bananas, mashed
4 medium egg whites
100g caster sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting 
125g cream cheese
250ml whipping cream
100g icing sugar, sifted 
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy on medium speed, about 4 minutes. 

3. Add egg yolks one by one on very low speed till well combined. 

4. Mix in vanilla extract.

5. Fold in sifted flour, cinnamon and salt into the batter, in 3 batches. Alternate between half the pineapple syrup, ending with flour.

6. Mix in crushed pineapples and mashed bananas till well combined.

7. In a clean bowl, whip egg whites till foamy, then add sugar bit by bit. Beat till egg whites mixture become thick and soft peaks form.

8. Slowly add egg whites mixture into cake batter till well combined.

9. Pour into 3 - 8 inch pans and bake for 30 minutes. Otherwise, this cake mixture can be baked in cupcake tins for 25-30 minutes. I made 12 cupcakes and 1 7-inch square cake (45-50 minutes) with this batter this time.

10. Leave to cool before frosting.

Cream cheese frosting ~ beat cream cheese till light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Fold in icing sugar and vanilla extract. In another bowl, beat whipping cream till glossy and stiff. Fold in whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture gently till combined.  

You noticed the cracks on the chocolate eggs, didn't you? Yup, I broke them while tearing the packet  open.. What can I say.. oops, I have butter-fingers?? ^^||

These cakes are perfect ~ for me! The right texture, the right sweetness, the right frosting ~ just the way I like it! ^^

p.s. I'm seriously stopping after this bake.. the sweets policeman, papa pig, has noticed I've been sending up too many cakes lately, yikes! ^^|| 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Strawberry tart ^^

I'm not sure what has come over me, but I seem to be on a baking (not to mention cooking!) overdrive this month!

It's just 2 weeks into march, and I have already baked more than I usually do in two months! Let's see, I made a japanese cheesecake, a marmalade butter cake, vanilla cupcakes, chez panisse almond tart, french onion tart, strawberry cupcakes, danish butter cookies, pizza bread, strawberry daifuku and now, strawberry tarts! And I'm still craving..! I think I'm possessed (by greed and gluttony!)!!!

So I'm going to make a conscious effort to stop.. er, slow down. ^^

If you're in the mood for some yummy berry tartlets, head to pickyin's for her tarte framboises recipe. I halved the recipe and still ended up with 1 16cm-round tart, 2 small rectangular tarts, and 3 baby tartlets ~ and that's quite a lot! ^^

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yummy-licious steamed butter fish and sauteed garlic rice ^^

Life is great..

When you have friends who make your life better (and more interesting! ^^) every day. And I'm glad to count on wonderful friends like mel@melspantrykitchen and lisa@frommylemonykitchen who shared these super-duper easy recipes with me! ^^

Mel's mum's steamed butter fish (recipe from mel@melspantrykitchen)
~ serves 2
1 slice of snapper (use 2 if cuts are small)
2-3 tbsp butter, diced or break into smaller pieces
some salt and pepper, to season

1. Clean and pat-dry fish. Season with some salt and pepper.

2. Place fish on a plate/dish and top with butter.

3. Steam for 10 minutes and serve immediately. Sprinkle some chili powder over if you like a bit of kick ^^

* cheat's way: layer bottom of dish with cabbage or place brocolli florets around the fish, and steam together! great way to be lazy and to mop up the sauces ^^

Sauteed garlic in olive oil rice (recipe from lisa@frommylemonykitchen)
~ serves 2
1 cup basmati rice, washed and drained
2 cups water
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat evoo in a pan on low heat. Saute minced/grated garlic till fragrant.

2. Place rice, water, browned garlic+oil into rice cooker. Soak for a bit if you have the time.

3. Fluff up rice before serving.

Mel, the steamed fish in butter was as yums! and as easy as you said it would be.. I drank up the sauce too! ^^

Lisa, I can't believe how well the sauteed garlic in olive oil worked in covering the "taste" of basmati rice! Fatty hubby couldn't even tell! I'm off to buy more basmati rice! ^^

I really love both these super duper easy, yummy recipes! Thanks, mel! Thanks, lisa!

Look ma, I can cook! ^^

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream ^^

When my cupcake piggy, chubby pig, made me buy him a strawberry cupcake last december, I told him I could make the same thing for him! ^^

Brave words! Fast forward 3 months later, I now know I can't make the same tasting cupcake! Not without the coloring and flavoring! ^^||

But I'd like to think these cupcakes are by far more superior because it uses only the best natural ingredients! ;p

Strawberry cupcakes (recipe from callmecupcake)
~ makes 10-12 cupcakes
75g unsalted butter, softened (I couldn't resist ^^ used 113g!)
230g sugar (I used only 130g)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used just 1/4 tsp)
150g flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
85ml fresh milk
120g fresh strawberries, chopped (I pureed them as baby and chubby doesn't like fruits in the batter!)

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Beat butter with sugar till light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add egg and mix till well combined. Mix in vanilla extract (and strawberry puree, if using).

3. Add the sifted flours in three parts, alternating with the milk.. beginning and ending with the flour. Mix well after each addition. Fold in chopped strawberries.

4. Pour batter into 10 or 12-lined cupcake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Strawberry swiss meringue buttercream
5 large egg whites
190g sugar
210g unsalted butter, diced and softened
100g fresh strawberries, chopped (or pureed)

1. Put egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl over a pan/pot of simmering water (without bottom of bowl touching the water). Whisk egg whites and sugar till sugar melts (rub mixture between fingers, if mixture is no longer grainy (smooth) to the touch, it's ready ^^). Remove from heat.

2. Whisk egg whites mixture till white, fluffy and cool for about 10 minutes.

3. Add diced butter slowly into the mixture. If mixture curdles, just continue whisking till it all comes together again. It always does, just be patient ^^.

4. Add chopped strawberries (or puree.. and if buttercream becomes too soft, chill in the fridge till it's stiffer before frosting ^^).

this is what happens when frosting is too soft ('cos of puree) and needs more chilling before use ^^||

I've always preferred the egg separation method for my cakes. But how do you beat 1 egg white? Besides, those who have tried this recipe has vouched that this recipe produces a nicely soft, moist and fluffy cake. And it's true ^^. Though I think a cake with egg whites separately whipped would produce an even lighter and fluffier texture.. so next time. ^^

While I like cakes au naturel, no frosting.. these cupcakes really shine with strawberry frosting! ^^ Rest assured the frosting's not flinching-sweet either ~ just nice! ^^

Anyway, as lovely as these strawberry cupcakes are, I think they can still do with a bit of tinkling ^^.. in terms of texture and flavor. I noticed that the cupcakes had a rather weak strawberry-fragrance and flavor, and I'm wondering if it could be the korean strawberries (?).. While the cakes were baking in the oven, I thought they smell more like banana cake than a strawberry cake! I don't remember this problem when I baked with strawberries from the US.

Hence my quest for the perfect strawberry cupcake continues! ^^ So be patient just a little more, chubby!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Very danish butter cookies ^^

This bake is very much for fatty hubby, a butter cookie lover.. And of course, I fell for the "throw everything in and mix" by travellingfoodies, hook, line and sinker!

When I bake, I never think too much, especially if it's a straightforward recipe (I'm more than happy it's simple ^^!). But if you like, there's an in-depth post by travellingfoodies to perfecting these butter cookies. I recommend that you not think too much. Just follow the simple instructions and enjoy the bake ^^!

Klassiske vaniljekranse, danish butter cookies (posted by dreamer'sloft, original from travellingfoodies)
1 egg (60g)
200g butter
130g icing sugar
320g flour
2 tbsp vanilla paste (I used 2 tsp vanilla extract.. no prob ^^)

1. Place everything in a mixing bowl and mix on the lowest speed possible.

2. Pipe wreaths onto lined/greased baking tray. Use an open star tip ie. Wilton 1M.

3. Bake in a preheated oven of 200C for 7-8 minutes.

4. Leave to cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet/tray.

Really, that's it. All butter cookies recipes are really this simple and straightforward! ^^ 

I used my precious Lurpak unsalted butter and my 11 months old homemade vanilla extract for this bake. And piped wreaths for the first time in my life ^^! It's a wonder I got any right! ^^

Well, fatty hubby and piggies sure enjoyed these cookies fresh from the oven ^^. I didn't.. well, not at first bite. I thought they were rather plain and not quite buttery enough ^^||. HOWEVER, these cookies were ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL once perfectly cooled/rested/next day ^^!!!

They taste just like kjeldsens butter cookies! Full butter flavor and aroma! ^^ I must remember patience is a virtue when it comes to most bakes! Ooh, yums! ^^

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy butter garlic rice

Once upon a time, a girl thought it best she consumed basmati rice instead of her usual fragrant rice, as it has far less carbohydrate content as opposed to the usual white rice. She loves rice, by the way.

After many attempts at eating basmati rice, she gave up as she did not like the queer flavor, dry and non-starchy taste of basmati. And so the basmati rice stayed in the fridge since.. The end.

And it would have stayed that way for way longer, if not for mel's recommendation that I try her butter (she knows how much I love butter! ^^) garlic rice ^^.

Butter garlic rice (recipe shared by mel@melspantrykitchen)
~ serves 2
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of butter
1 tsp of grated carrot (I had no carrots, so I omitted this ^^)
1/2 tsp sea salt
a small pinch of turmeric powder

1. Wash the rice. Drain well.

2. Put everything together and cook in a pot/rice cooker. Soak rice for a bit if you have the time.

3. Fluff up rice before serving.

I've never thought of cooking anything but plain rice in my rice cooker. But this is so easy to jazz up plain ol' rice.. and perfect for getting rid of my basmati rice too! ^^

Anyway, I can't believe basmati rice with butter and garlic can taste SOOOO GOOOOOOD! It's miles tastier than any briyani rice!

The butter and garlic flavor is wonderful! I swear, this flavored rice tastes almost like hainanese chicken rice ^^! And it's not greasy at all! Perfect with the very flavorful san bei ji (leftovers tastes even better! ^^)! Like mel said, this garlic butter rice goes very well with any flavorful dish like curries or stews ^^.

Thanks so, so much, mel ^^!

p.s. after learning this rice dish, i'll always keep some basmati rice at home! this recipe is a keeper!!! ^^ 

Three cup chicken?

I've heard so much about this 1 cup soy sauce: 1 cup seame oil: 1 cup rice wine dish.. googled it even.. but yet, never gotten round to trying it in a restaurant.

So I really have no idea if I have the taste right. Anyway, here goes..

Three cup chicken (recipe adapted from flavours magazine, cny edition)
~ serves 2, maybe 3 ^^
2 whole chicken legs, cut to pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp sesame oil (I used only 2 tbsp)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine / chinese cooking wine (hua tiao wine)
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small knob of ginger
2 spring onions, white part only
a small handful of thai basil leaves, optional

1. Marinade chicken pieces with salt, sugar, pepper, cornstarch, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine, water and dark soy sauce for at least an hour.

2. Heat some oil in a claypot/pot/wok, and saute garlic, ginger and spring onions till fragrant.

3. Add chicken together with marinade and stir fry for a bit. Cover pot/wok and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or more, or till sauce is reduced/almost dry.

4. Add basil leaves and give it a quick stir fry. Serve immediately.

Since fatty hubby enjoyed it.. I guess I must be on the right track, somehow! ^^

I must say the flavors of san bei ji are really robust and piquant! We enjoyed it with lots of rice.. and butter garlic rice! ^^

p.s. the leftovers tasted even better the next day! ^^

Thursday, March 7, 2013

French onion tart

I've a thing for recipes that start with "french" ~ but guess you know that already! ^^

Recently, we had a slice of french quiche with a soft filling of caramelized onions and just the barest of egg-taste.. and I thought about replicating that same uncomplicated taste yet flavorful tart at home.

So imagine reading the french onion tart shared by smitten kitchen.. I practically ran to buy yellow onions! ^^

French onion tart (recipe from the smitten kitchen)
2 cups/ 250g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup / 113g chilled butter, cubed (I used 125g ^^)
3-4 tbsp cold water

4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup low-sodium beef/chicken/mushroom stock/broth
some black pepper, to season
1/2 cup / 60g grated gruyere, comte, swiss cheese (none? just use cheddar ^^)
1 large egg
1/2 cup / 125ml heavy cream

1. Prepare crust. Mix flour, salt and butter in a processor/mixer till you get crumbs. Add water to form dough. Roll out dough to fit a greased 9-inch tart time. Freeze for at least 15 minutes. Bake blind if you like, I didn't.

2. Make caramelized onion filling. Heat up butter and olive oil, and add onions to the pan. Toss and saute them gently for a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and leave onions to cook for 15 minutes. Then remove lid, add salt and saute for another 10-15 minutes, till the onions are fully caramelized and taken a deep golden color (?? mine still looked pale to me ^^||). Next, add stock/broth, turn heat up and let mixture simmer till broth completely dries up (around 5-10 minutes). Adjust the salt.. (I didn't, but next time I would ~ caramelized onions are very sweet, a little bit more salt would make it all the more tasty!). Remove from heat and leave to cool.

3. Beat eggs and cream together. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.

4. Spread caramelized onions on pastry shell and pour egg mixture over. Sprinkle grated cheese over the filling. 

5. Bake on 180C for about 40-50 minutes, or until the top is golden. 

I've always gone overboard when it comes to quiche filling ~ more ham, more bacon, more meat, more onions, more cheese.. more everything! ^^

But this is a quiche that's only filled with sweet, sweet caramelized onions! And it's gorgeous!

Never mind if this quiche is not quite the one I had in mind (to replicate). If my pickiest guinea pig, papa pig, says it's good and he likes it more than any of my "extreme" version, I'm happy. ^^

p.s. there maybe caramelized onions left over.. don't waste, add cooked rice and make caramelized onion fried rice ~ it's very, very nice! ^^ 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Japanese hamburger steak ^^

I've been meaning to make hambagu steak since I caught the recipe at nami's@justonecookbook ^^.. but never got round to it because I don't keep red wine at home ^^|| My fatty hubby's a beer guzzler!

Since nami's featured in this month's issue of food&travel magazine, I knew I had to try at least one of the recipes she shared, red wine or not!

And so I finally made the very deliciously moist and luscious japanese hamburger steak for dinner today ^^! with beef broth (thanks to google!) instead of red wine ^^

As usual, I think the combination of beef and pork is brilliant! The patties turned out really fabulously moist and tender.. just the way I like it ^^. And nami's sauce (no tonkatsu, use worcestershire sauce instead!) is perfect with the hambagu! For detailed step-by-step, beautiful pictures and recipe, check out nami's blog.

You may notice my hambagu steaks are kinda pale and could've done with a few more minutes of browning, but being the terrible cook that I am, I couldn't tell that at the time of cooking ^^||! Besides having burnt more food than you can imagine, I wasn't leaving this to chance! But I assure you, they are cooked! ^^

And they are delish.. especially served with rice ^^! 2 thumbs up from my piggies! And me! ^^ Thanks, nami!