January 29, 2016

Sweet potato biscuits

Chalk this up to a love of sweet potatoes.  It's only natural we want to find ways to use/cook/eat our favorite ingredients.  Because I love sweet potatoes (a whole lot), I've been wanting to make sweet potato biscuits since I saw them on a cooking show.
The orange hue of these biscuits doesn't come from cheddar; it's from sweet potatoes, mashed and stirred together with buttermilk as the wet ingredients that go into an otherwise rather classic buttermilk biscuit formula.  
I meant to make these around Thanksgiving but didn't get around to it but since I kept thinking about them, I just had to make it happen.  Biscuit making (as well as scone dough, pie dough-making, etc.) makes me a little nervous.  There's often that point when I turn the dough out and it's so crumbly, I wonder how I'll ever bring it together, be able to cut out rounds, and bake them in one piece!  I had that moment here but as it usually happens, things work out and I'm very happy these biscuits turned out well in the end.  
They've got the classic crunchy, buttery sides and edges that's just so hard to stop eating, and as for the sweet potato part - it brings a slight sweetness into the picture. I don't know if you'd be able to identify the taste of sweet potatoes specifically (I'd have to say, probably not...) but it adds that little sweetness.  I also like the color and hopefully, there's some goodness to be had from the nutrients from the sweet potato.
I baked half the batch and froze the rest for another night.  I see soup, with a side of sweet potato biscuits, for dinner in the near future.

January 26, 2016

Mini monkey bread

Holy snow!  Boy oh boy, did it snow!  We got walloped with more than 2 feet of snow this past weekend.  I hope this means we're done for the season (wishful thinking, most likely) but I'm just grateful that we didn't lose power and everyone is safe.  
We had plenty of notice about the blizzard so we were prepared.  And a big part of storm preparedness is obviously, food.  Everyone gets incredibly hungry on snow days, I've noticed.  

So I started Saturday morning with something decadent - monkey bread, a mini version.  It's Chinese New Year in a couple of weeks and it will be the year of the monkey.  That got me thinking about monkey bread.  It's a stretch, I know, so I'll just admit it was an excuse to try monkey bread, something I'd never had before.  
I wanted to make a mini version for my family and that's just what I did on Saturday. A snow day was the perfect setup for a decadent sweet breakfast, which can be rationalized by all the impending exercise from snow shoveling to come.  

I adapted this recipe from Dessert for Two but instead of making 4 muffins, I baked it in a single large (about 16 oz. capacity) ramekin.  I know monkey breads are usually made with either a biscuit or yeast dough; this one is made with a simple homemade biscuit dough.  While I'd probably prefer the yeast variety, the biscuit dough is easy to make and, I think, more suited for a small scale recipe.
My family and I didn't really know what to expect from this little monkey bread but everyone enjoyed the individual little balls of warm biscuits, coated in sweet cinnamon-caramel.  I think the little one was pleasantly surprised.  And do you see that white glare in the background of the photo above?  That's the snow pile at around 9am on Saturday morning.  It just kept on falling and falling, relentlessly, and by that evening, we had a good 2 feet of the fluffy stuff on the ground.    

And the correlation between hunger and a snow day is very real.  The fellas had no problems devouring their first monkey bread breakfast and they seemed hungry every hour or two.  Needless to say, we went through a good chunk of groceries over the weekend, and I'm off to replenish our stock!

January 22, 2016

Bananas foster

Snow is coming!  After enjoying an unusually mild winter so far, it sounds like we may get our first true snow storm of the season this weekend.  I've done my grocery shopping and I'm ready for a lot of home-cooking and eating in the next couple of days. It's cold winter weekends huddled at home that give me time to whip up different things, including desserts, that I've been wanting to make.  For instance, this bananas foster...
Is it odd that snow/cold weather makes me think of ice cream?  At least I tend to think of pairing it with something warm.  So this post is timely...for me, at least.

Actually, I wanted to make bananas foster for my husband when I caught an easy recipe for it (no flambeing involved).  He's a big fan of banana desserts, not only in baked goods form, but where it takes center stage on a plate.  I wasn't always a big fan of such a thing but I've been reformed in the last decade, for better or worse.   
So bananas foster.  It isn't something I see on a restaurant menu often but if you like bananas, you know the allure of warm, sweet, caramelized bananas, kissed with the flavors of rum and a little cinnamon.  Add on the contrast of ice-cold vanilla ice cream and it's easy to know why it's a special dish many people enjoy.  Aside from the flavor, I really adore the contrast of warm bananas and cold ice cream in each bite. When I made this last weekend, my main concern was to get it on the table and into our mouths while it was still warm and cold at the same time.  A few clicks of the camera and we cued to the important stuff: eating.

January 18, 2016

Chestnut cream tea cakes

What do you do when you see a madeleine recipe you really want to try but don't have a madeleine pan?  You improvise...
Naturally, I thought of using a mini muffin tin but then I had the idea that it might be nice to bake the batter in mini tart tins.  So that's what I did, turning what should have been madeleines into what I'll call, tea cakes.  
A couple of my tea cakes are about 2 1/2 inches in diameter while the others (4 larger ones in my small batch) were slightly bigger at about 3 1/2 inches wide.  I would've preferred them all in the smaller size but I discovered I only had two of the smaller tart tins so I was out of luck.  I filled the larger ones a little less so as not to end up with very thick tea cakes. I was aiming for dainty.
Now let me tell you why I wanted to make these so much...yes, it was the chestnut cream factor.  I do love myself some chestnuts and love finding recipes like this one that use chestnut cream.  And since I have a pretty substantial stash of chestnut cream in my pantry right now thanks to my sister, who stocked up for me on a recent trip to Paris, I'm really on the lookout for good recipes.

This chestnut cream madeleine (or "tea cake") recipe fit the bill and was all the more appealing given how easy the batter is to put together; we're talking bowls and some good old-fashion stirring.  I divvied up the batter into my tart tins and these small tea cakes emerged from the oven.  I was happy.  
These little cakes are just simple and lovely.  They're moist, with an unmistakable flavor of sweetened chestnuts from the chestnut cream that made me smile.  Also lightly flavored with a touch of vanilla extract and rum, these little bites were just what I was looking for in a mid-afternoon tea cake.  Whether with tea or coffee, they are a lovely little sweet treat for any chestnut lover.

January 14, 2016

Chocolate banana smoothie

Do you smoothie?  I mean...do you make/drink smoothies regularly?  It's not something I've gotten on the bandwagon of though I've seen many tempting versions of them.  But today, I'm tiptoeing into the smoothie world with this 3-ingredient chocolate banana smoothie that's right up my alley.
It doesn't get any simpler, easier than this so this smoothie is perfect for a beginner like me.  Three ingredients: a banana, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and skim milk.  Just blend it up!
I was inspired to make this when I flipped through the current issue of Food Network magazine and saw it mentioned in the January calendar.  Something that doesn't even require a recipe - just a basic instruction to blend 3 ingredients up - totally appealed to me.  Since I eat a banana essentially everyday as a mid-morning snack, I thought I could change things up, swap out my morning frappuccino, and use my blender for this instead.
Can I tell you...I'm a little surprised by how much I liked this!  I literally whipped it up this very morning for breakfast with some toast (that's how fast this is - you can make and blog about it instantly).  It really tasted like a treat.  The one tablespoon of cocoa powder added so much chocolate flavor and the banana provides the natural sweetener you need.  Yes, you can taste banana but the texture is so velvety - kind of pudding like - and the flavor so rich that I really felt like I was having a milkshake. It's great just like this and surely, you could build onto it, maybe adding a spoonful of almond/peanut butter or oats and expanding it to include other fruits, if you like. 

Once again, I've determined that bananas rule.  I think I now have one more thing I have to keep in the freezer...sliced bananas, so I can whip up a smoothie whenever I want.

January 11, 2016

Soy sauce eggs, with miso soba noodles

If you're like me, you think that just about everything is better with an egg, or two, on top.  I love eggs, cooked every which way.  They are a wonderful addition to a dish, instantly bulking it up, providing you with a garnish and, often, a ready sauce if a runny egg yolk is involved.
A fried egg is probably my go-to but I also love soft boiled eggs.  Every so often, I have one with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt on top with breakfast and it reminds me that simple things are so good and so satisfying.  

Recently, I tried my hand at making soy sauce eggs (or "shoyu tomago") following a simple recipe from Christina Tosi's Milk Bar Life that was published on Food52.  It sounded easy enough and it was.  You boil eggs for just under 7 minutes, shock and peel them, then marinade the eggs in a mixture of soy sauce, water, sherry vinegar and sugar for a few hours.  
You end up with these soft, runny eggs that's salty and flavorful.  If you enjoy ramen, it's likely you've encountered one of these soy sauce eggs on top of the bowl.  These eggs are certainly great with ramen or any bowl of hot soup noodles.  They're also good with rice or just alone as a savory snack.  I paired the first eggs out of my batch with soba noodles dressed in a miso dressing.  
There's a lot of salty flavors going on here today but I think I could do with a little savory to balance out all the sweet we have rotating around here.  

January 7, 2016

Cocoa marzipan loaf cake

Somehow, even with all the cookies and treats sitting around the house, I still managed to do a little more baking during our holiday break.  I'm still "high" on all the wonderful, cozy memories from the holidays.  I know I may be breaking protocol by talking about things like cake right now in early January but I want sweet things like cake to be a part of my life every month of the year.  In moderation, if we must...
During our time off, I was browsing old cookbooks and decided to whip up this cocoa marzipan loaf cake I saw in one because it sounded so good.  By my way of thinking, one can always use a simple "everyday" cake around the house (no matter how many cookies you have on hand), ready for afternoon snacking and a cup of tea. And when something involves chocolate and almond paste, well, I just can't resist.  So if you're like me, you find yourself shrugging your shoulders, thinking 'why not', and heading into the kitchen to make it happen. 
Given the name, I thought this recipe would call for marzipan but it's actually almond paste, something I always have on hand and want an excuse to use (marzipan is essentially the sweeter version of almond paste).  I've come to think of this loaf cake as the chocolate cousin of the almond bread I make often.

In full disclosure, this cake is originally titled cocoa marzipan pound cake but I went with loaf cake because there is not a pound of butter involved and pound cake tends to conjure up that image for a lot of us.  But if you're like me, any time you see a loaf cake like this, you do think pound cake in terms of texture and flavor but I think this is better...you have added depth from cocoa powder and moisture and flavor from the addition of almond paste.  My family and I tend to love all bakes with almond paste and we enjoyed this cake without exception.  
I was glad I persuaded myself to squeeze this bake into our schedule last week. 

January 3, 2016

Peanut butter cinnamon rolls

Time for the first post of the year...how exciting!  In 2016, I hope to continue to do what I've been doing here - trying recipes that appeal to me and hopefully discovering some new family favorites in the process.  At this point, we pretty much know what we like so the same themes will generally prevail...in other words, there will be lots of chocolate and I'll be keeping an eye out for simple yet scrumptious recipes.  For the most part, the blog's focus will stay on the sweet side of happenings in my kitchen. While I actually cook more than I bake in "real" life, this blog is mostly my little sweet retreat and I think having a little something sweet really makes life better.
One thing I love to eat and talk about, besides chocolate, is breakfast!  Weekend morning breakfasts are a highlight of the week.  Not only do we share something tasty to eat, we chat and linger around the table.  It's an awesome way to start the day and connect with each other.

Every so often, we have cinnamon rolls.  Since I started making them in 2014 based on a small-batch recipe from Oh, Ladycakes, it's been a favorite.  I even have a little cinnamon roll dance I like to do because I'm silly like that sometimes.  I've made several versions (including some must-try almond buns) and this time, let's welcome peanut butter!
I love peanut butter on an English muffin or toast in the morning so a cinnamon roll spin has been on my mind for some time.  What could be easier than just grabbing some peanut butter and slathering it onto the dough for an easy and deliciously satisfying filling!  You end up with ultra tender, soft, squishy rolls (trademarks of this cinnamon roll dough), filled with creamy and crunchy peanut butter (I used both) in each bite.  If you like peanut butter, it's a no-brainer.

I realized some time ago that you have to splurge and go for a glaze on your cinnamon rolls in most cases.  Even just a little bit enhances the overall experience, adding an extra layer of sweetness, flavor, and a general feeling of indulgence that makes it feel all the more fulfilling.  Considering there's just 1 tablespoon of butter and 4 teaspoons of sugar used to make this small-batch of 4 rolls, I think a little glaze is completely reasonable.  So I whipped up a simple peanut butter glaze and I am wholeheartedly glad I did.
Incidentally, I paired my peanut butter cinnamon roll with some Hong Kong style milk tea.  I made an easy knock-off version, simply using strong black tea (steeping at least 2 English breakfast teabags for 2 cups of boiling water), sweetening it lightly with sugar, and stirring in evaporated milk until a creamy color emerges.
I had leftover evaporated milk in the fridge after making a batch of Cantonese egg tarts for my in-laws over the holiday break and this tea was a great use of it.  If only I had thought to serve the egg tarts with the milk tea!  


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