Jasmine’s Blackberry, Sour Cream & Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently, the famous “Sprinkles” cupcake bakery opened up near my home. My friends said the average waiting time is 45 minutes to an hour for a cupcake that’s $3.50. They are very busy over there and constantly running out of cupcakes. I walked by it yesterday and the line indeed wrapped around the corner of the store.

It reminded me of Jasmine’s blackberry, sour cream & chocolate cupcakes that I made the last week with Mike. I bet your bottom dollar that this cupcake will knock your socks off and give Sprinkles a run for their money.

Jasmine’s blackberry, sour cream & chocolate cupcakes (makes 12-14 servings)

Cake Ingredients:
Wet Ingredients
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted (mix into creamed butter and sugar)
1/2 cup of butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 and a bit teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting Ingredients:
4 ounce cream cheese
1/4 cup butter 2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
some vanilla


Say Hello to my indispensable assistant: Mike!
>> Pre-heat the Oven at 350 degrees
>> At low temperatures, microwave the chocolate & the butter so they are melted
>> Using a mixer, mix all the wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.
>>Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix again

>> Add in one carton of blackberries to the mixing bowl and mix! YUM! YUM! YUM!


>> Fill up the your cupcake baking holders about 1/3 of the way full as tend to rise (as seen in picture, oops I put too much)
>> HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – that you use cupcake paper cups, easy clean up and easy pan removal
(I attempted to PAM, it was no-no X_X )
>> Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

Time to Make the Frosting!
>> Mix frosting ingredients together
>> Wait until cupcakes have cooled, then slather on the frosting goodness!

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Homemade Hot pot! Oh so yummy!

The view from my Minnesotan home. You know what’s best on a chilly winter night? Hot pot!!! Actually I pretty much can have hot pot anytime. Once in the summer when M and I were in Shanghai, China we ate at Fire and Ice cafe where they served shaved ice and spicy mai la tang (similar to hot pot). YUM!
Anyways here are some pictures of the homemade hot pot I had with my family.
You can buy hot pot utensils and tools at your local Asian supermarket or Ranch 99. I’ve seen the burner at Ranch 99 for around $15 dollar and they also sell the spare gas. It’s quite affordable to make in your own house compared to hot pot eating out which can average $15-20 per person.
My mother has this awesome pot with a divider in it so you have 2 kinds of soup flavors. People usually do spicy and non-spicy. But this time we just went with regular brother made from bone stock. However the dividers are still nice to separate the cooking of different items.
Ingredients:
Crab Legs – pre-cooked from Costco, we dip them into the broth to warm them up, you can also eat them off the plate
Fish Balls -fish mixture into like “meatball” shape
Shrimp – you cook them until they change color to red-pink
Fried Tofu – watch out they can be quite hot when they absorb the broth!
Scallops
Pickled Cabbage Dish – I think that was just side dish, not for the hotpot
We also put in…
Mushrooms
Xi Fen (thin clear noodle)
Bok Choy
Napa Cabbage
My dad usually makes our hot pot dipping sauce which has a combination of sai chai jian, peanut sauce, Hoisen sauce and spices. It thicker texture and we love it!

Other items I love in hot pots are winter melon, nian gao, and thinly sliced beef.
I really want to get my own hot pot burner so I can have hot pot in California. It’s always a fun night, we have special like hot-pot dipping ladles and it does not take much to prepare.

So if you haven’t you should look into having a hot pot party! ^^ Invite me too!

5th Annual Hanukkah Celebration with Christina & Emily

Hanukkah “Chanukah” is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It involves the lighting of the Menorah, rededication of the Holy Temple, and blessings over the candles. Hanukkah is jewish meaning derived to mean “dedicate”.

I’m not sure how this celebration has come about since we aren’t Jewish. However, it’s always been a celebration I look greatly forward to every year. Last year I even went to Emily’s after having gum surgery and that was quite a sight to see!

Agenda
Hanukkah music courtesy of Pandora Radio
-Lighting of the Menorah
-Blessings over candles
-No Fry Latkas
-Lentils soup made from scratch!

Lentils – Christina got them from Lakewinds Grocer. I’ve never had lentils before but they are a very interesting shape and feeling. You can buy them by the weight. It’s to be used in our lentils soup. I found lentils to have taste attributed to their texture and shape.

Pearled Barley – Christina also found this at Lakewinds by the weight. Another thing I don’t remember ever having before. They are very small and look similar to like oats. We put these in our soup which was good. However, I can’t distinctly tell you what they tasted like.

Other Ingredients:
Soup
 (lentils, pearled barley, canned tomatoes, shredded carrots, onions, and pinch of rosemary)
No Fry latkas (potatoes, onions, wheat germ, salt, pepper, eggs)

Shredder Device –
 Emily’s house they have this awesome orange plastic/ metal shredder device. It’s very easy to use, has a bunch of different metal shredder plates and all you do is turn the knob. In no time at all I was able to shred up the potatoes for the latkes. It was actually sort of fun and I wished I had more things to shred. I’m not sure if this tool has a special name but sure is handy!

No Fry latkas
We decided on no frying because frying can be tricky. Don’t worry these turned out delicious! The recipe was very simple and we just found it online. 

1. Christina washed & peeled the potatoes, we pre-heated the oven
2.  I used the device to shred the 2 large potatoes we had which made 18-20 latkes
3. Christina chopped up a cup of onions
4. We added the rest of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. The wheat germ gives it a lot of texture, fiber and really amps of the consistency. 
5.  We oiled 2 baking trays, we scooped out the batter in 1/3 cup portion, and put them in the oven to bake (you do need to flip them once)

The latkas do get a bit juicy and the potato juicy runs from them. Just take a paper towel and wipe off the extra juice!

Next Food: Lentils Soup
This is Emily hard at work getting the recipe in order for the soup.
Soup Ingredients… 
 The soup was easy to prepare and cook. It took approximately 1 hour. It was amazing how fast the lentils absorbed the liquids in the soup.

Finished Products!!! Lentils Soup & No Fry latkas

Soup ended being thicker texture so it more like a stew then a liquid soup.
We added some apple sauce to the latkas and it was superb!

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe : Alton Brown

I made this a while back in October but misplaced the pictures when I started changing cameras. But anyways, I wanted to post this recipe because it is really easy, affordable and delicious. Originally I saw a post by Kirbies Cravings here and thought they looked yummy. I’ve never really made pretzels or even bread from scratch. Then after going to Miramar Airshow I had a craving to buy pretzels but they were $5 a pop so I thought heck why not make them.

(So with ingredients in hand + Marvelous Mike, who is a bread-making master… I proceeded on my journey to pretzel heaven.)

I used the recipe by Alton Brown here. I used the exact recipe, no alterations, and it turned out great!

^^ I need to practice my pretzel folding skills but no worries they do taste like pretzels! I heard they taste great the next day too.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe: cornbread, chicken, and vegetable casserole

I’m trying to take better step by step recipe pictures because I just oogle Pioneer Woman’s blog and she takes the most gorgeous pictures that make you crave food you never thought would be delicious!  Well this my first time so bear with me since it’s an easy recipe.

Recipe: ( I found mine on the back of Stove Top box, but it’s very basic/substitutable)
Ingredients:
1 lb of vegetable medley, it’s easier if they are frozen so you don’t have to pre-cook them. I just used leftover vegetables some were frozen, some were canned, and some were just raw. My mistake was not pre-cooking the carrots! So they were harder than I would have liked.
1 lb of  chopped chicken, cut into small 1in’ cubes
-4 tablespoons of butter (1/4 cup)
-1 Stove top box (I used cornbread variety)
-3/4 cup of milk or 1/2 cup of sour cream
-1 can of cream of chicken
Tools
-Oven, timer
-Cutting Board
-Measuring cup
-Knife, peeler
– 9X 12 pan
( I used a pyrex glass one)
Small Pot with lid
-Small frying pan

Instructions: Vegetables
If you are using raw vegetables make sure to wash, peel, and slice them into dime-size pieces. Remember to slightly cook them or you could adjust the baking time accordingly. However, with frozen vegetables you can by pass this step.
Next: Vegetables
Since I used a medley of raw, canned, and frozen vegetables I just thought it would be good idea to mix them. Skip this step when using a frozen medley package by just opening the bag and putting the vegetable in your 9 X12 pan. Start to pre-heat your oven at 350 degrees!
Make Stove Top stuffing as direct on box (water, butter, pan with lid)
Don’t worry if I can do it, you can too! It’s super easy!

Preparing Chicken
I used a 1lb of chicken thighs. I don’t think what part of the chicken really matters. So remove the chicken skin, safely cut up the chicken into 1in’ cube sized pieces, and lightly saute in cook pan until it’s not pink. I believe the original recipe said that you could just put the chopped raw pieces in the casserole but we preferred to play it on the safe side.
Creating the Casserole
You should already have your vegetable medley in the 9 X 12 pan. Then put in the chicken and pour in the can of chicken and milk into the pan. Mix the mixture around to get a even consistency. Take your stuffing topping put in on top of your casserole mixture and pop it into the oven (350) for 30 minutes. Don’t forget to set your timer!
Viola! Yummy casserole is Done!
It serves around 5-6 people. I really liked how easy and versatile the recipe was. It was my first time using stove top stuffing and cream of chicken which was pretty exciting for me but perhaps not for veteran cooks.

The Outcome was DELICIOUS! It did have a soupier  feeling than I expected. I think it’s very similar to what you would expect chicken pot pie filling to taste like and I like the added texture & flavor the stove topping gave it.

It cost me less than $5 dollars to make! ^_^

Max’s easy leftover noodles recipe

I’m not sure if this has a fancy name but it reminds me of the cold, mixed noodles (冷混面) that I often had when I was in China.
Except in this particular recipe we did not use the thin transparent noodles that they use on the street but you have that kind feel free to substitute.

Recipe:
half a package of  flour noodles or 1 handful per person
1 cucumber
1 carrot
1 cup of chicken
*additional 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts (topping)

Mixture (made to taste)
peanut butter, Hoisen sauce,sesame oil & milk

The dish is served cold.

First boil water and cook your noodles, wait ’til they cool
Second Cut your chicken into 1 inch slices or cubes, and fully cook your chicken
Third  wash & thinly slice or shred the carrots & cucumber
Fourth combine all the mixture item in a separate bowl and adjust to taste
Fifth mix noodles, vegetables, chicken and sauce

(Viola! Done and Ready to consume!)

(How-To) Max’s Nifty Jewelry Solution

I have this extremely long and ever growing to do list. Thankfully Max was able to come up with this ingenious solution. Best part is that it was all things that he already owned. I’m pretty sure you probably have similar items at home too. I am so ecstatic to have something to contain my mess!!!

Materials:
2 chopsticks
Plastic Box
Hot glue gun
Plastic Mesh (can be purchased at a craft store or even a Wal-mart, I think it’s like 0.30cent for a huge piece?)

Instructions:
Cut the length of mesh you could like to use
Hot glue chopsticks into plastic box
Hot glue the plastic mesh on the chopsticks
(Viola! Project is ready to use! Feel free to substitute any items & any sizes to your own preferences. You might have to work with the mesh in case your jewelry turns out to be particularly heavy. Solution is to keep the heavier stuff closer to the chopsticks side of the mesh)


Woot! My new pride & joy! It’s not fancy looking but it’s absolutely perfect because it fit in tiny sink corner.
It holds all my earrings, hair pieces, hair clips and jewelry without being too messy or tangled.

P.s. I just got the long dangle pearl earrings at Forever 21. They are very light and I find easy to coordinate into my outfits.
Forever 21 has some great jewelry deals. ^_^
I got a bunch of those elastic hairbands 10 for $1.50. Who can beat that?

Max’s Delicious Homemade Sushi Rolls, Nigiri, & Inari

So I’ve been craving sushi for some time now so Max decided we should just make it. Sushi making is much more cost-effective and you can better control what on your plate.

All the items seen in the pictures can be purchased at Ranch 99 Grocery Store. We like the one on convoy.

Items needed to make sushi:
Raw salmon (refrigerated section of ranch)
Imitation Crab Meat (sushi rolls)
Cucumber
Seaweed
Wasabi Paste
Soy Sauce
Tofu Skins (fill up with rice)
Rice (vinegar, sugar, salt)
*optional -Sushi Rice roller, can be purchase at Daiso (Japanese Convenient Store) for under $2
*Feel free to use different fish or main ingredients, I just like salmon best. But they do sell octopus & ahi tuna @ Ranch


One of my favorite sushi is the Inari sushi. It’s basically a sweetened, fried tofu pocket fill with sushi rice.
It’s better eaten as finger food since it’s quite hard to use chopsticks with. Here’s a recipe I found on how to make it.

Sushi Roll: imitation crab meat & cucumbers, rice, and seaweed wrap

Nigiri: slice of salmon on sushi rice


There’s many different variation on how to make sushi rice online so I won’t go into in much detail.
But you mix regular rice with sugar, salt, and rice vinegar. The upside of making sushi rice rather than just using regular rice is the consistency becomes more solid and easier to work with. The “sticky” texture allow the rice to stick with ingredients and not crumble.

Overall these rolls turned out delicious.

[CON] We saved some for later. Unfortunately the rice became much harder so I’d recommend make only enough to eat one session.

Perculair Adventures of Spaghetti Squash

It’s fall and fall always seems to fill the grocery store with tons of different squashs. I’m not a big fan of squashes perhaps because growing up my mom rarely cooked them. But I thought heck why not! So Max and I picked up the spaghetti squash from Henry’s. I think it was on sale which made it easier decision. Recently we saw them at Ranch 99 for $0.99/lb. They are large, long shaped squashes with yellow/orange color.

Spaghetti squash filled with folic acid, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene and low on calories!
 
Little did we know HOW HARD it is to cut! This is not like the other vegetables I’ve encountered!
So we did some researching…..

1. Spaghetti Squash needs to be baked in the oven for 40min-1hr
2. After baking, cut in half. (actually we cut in half first but I think it would be much easier afterwards)
3. Scope and discard seedy insides (big seeds)
4. Take utensil and scrape out rest of the edible inside (it’s stringy and looks oddly like thin pasta noodles)
5. Do *NOT* freeze because it will lose it’s texture

Actually the inside is what makes me so fascinated because it really interesting texture.
It clumps togethor and looks like it be mushy but has distinctive stringy, crunchy feeling.
I can’t really describe the taste but it’s good.

I decided to cook it simply and delicious from a recipe by Tasty Kitchen. I love Tasty Kitchen in depth photography and easy cooking style. This recipe by cooker : steamy kitchen”s Jaden.

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash
Butter or olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pepper/salt season to taste
Fresh chopped basil or parsley

I satueed 2 tablespoons of butter & minced garlic is sauce pan until aroma is apparant (1-2 min)
Then I add basil/parsley and then slowly toss in the spaghetti squash.
Afterwards sprinkle on the parmesan cheese on the mixture. Viola! Delicious, simple food!

It’s super easy and take like 10min total to prep & make.
It’s surprisingly filling!