Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gobble...Gobble...Gobble (Turkey Decorated Cupcakes)

With the Holidays fast approaching, potluck season has officially begun. I love potlucks! It is a time when I get to see fellow kitchen enthusiasts whip up their best dishes/desserts and show off their skills. And if I'm lucky enough, I get to add their recipe into my collection.

I had my first Thanksgiving potluck last Sunday with a group of mothers. One mom in particular has picked up cake decorating as a hobby and she's amazing at it. In fact, whenever I go to one of the kids' birthday party, I've had the pleasure of seeing her talent and creativity at work. This time she brought cupcakes decorated with a Turkey using buttercream icing and candy corns. They're so adorable and the kids loved them. I thought these would be a fun project for kids to do at a Thanksgiving gathering so I asked if she wouldn't mind sharing the recipe and decorating instruction.

Decoration instruction courtesy of: Andora Effendi Nguyen

Makes 2 dozens

1 box cake mix (or your favorite cake recipe)

24 regular cupcake liners

Cupcake baking pans

Follow the baking instruction on the box.
*Tip: pour the cake batter into the cupcake liner using a small ladle for even proportion.

Wilton Buttercream Icing (Makes about 3 cups)
1/2 C. solid vegetable shortening
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 t. clear vanilla extract
4 C. sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 T. milk


(Medium Consistency)

In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in the refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

Turkey Decoration
Indian Candy Corns
Orange Icing (spread on each cupcake)
Brown Icing (put in piping bag with No. 12 tip)
Red Icing (Put in parchment paper bag and cut a small (about 2mm) opening. No tip needed.
Yellow Icing (Put in parchment paper bag and cut a very small (about 1mm) opening. No tip needed.

Place 5 candy corns side-by-side into a semi-circle shape. Squeeze a big brown dot in the center of the candy corn and a smaller dot above it. Add the beak and wattle (chin) with the red icing. Use the yellow icing for the eyes and feet.

Just for fun, I want to share a few pictures of Andora's amazing cakes:

She made these Disney Pixar's "Cars" themed cakes for her son's 3rd birthday.

She spent hours meticulously piping the grass for this cake. The thought she puts into capturing the scenes from the movie was just amazing. Everything except for the car toys is edible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


From bottom left to right: beef, enoki mushrooms, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts. Middle: egg, sunny side up.

Lately, I've been in desperate need to eat more veggies at home but quite bored with just sauteing vegetables. A thought j
ust came over me and suddenly I was in the mood for Bibimbap, a Korean dish consisting of rice, mixed vegetables, and often served with beef and egg (raw, over easy, or sunny side up). Korean food is definitely not in my cooking comfort zone so I browsed online to find a Bibimbap recipe from an expert.

I was delighted to find a video tutorial made by a Korean girl on how to make Bibimbap. You can find the full recipe and how-to video on her blog, Maangchi, that's dedicated to cooking Korean food and learning about Korean culture. She's totally adorable and I really enjoyed watching the step-by-step instruction. And I was surprised how simple it is to make Bibimbap. It does take some time to prep and cook the different veggies and beef but really, all you need are these basic seasonings: sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, salt. It's all a matter of using different combinations and proportions depending on which side dish you're making.

Since I decided to make Bibimbap on a whim, I didn't have all the ingredients on hand. What I love about cooking is the freedom to improvise and be creative! :) I was missing zucchini, gosari (fern bracken), and ground beef. I had some enoki mushrooms so I decided to use them to substitute for the gosari. I've never had gosari so it is definitely going on my "to-try" list next time I go to a Korean market. I also had a couple of thin slices of beef round steak so I diced them to mimic the ground beef.

Hubby and my mother-in-law were quite impressed with the colorful presentation and of course gave two thumb's up for taste. I absolutely loved how everything turned out and so happy to find another yummy way to eat veggies at home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tarako (Salted Cod Roe) Spaghetti

I'm so excited to finally get the chance to make Tarako (salted cod roe) spaghetti. I originally stumbled upon a recipe for Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) spaghetti while browsing for a Japanese fusion dish. Tarako is the non-spicy version. Tarako/Mentaiko is commonly used as the filling for onigiri (rice ball). What I didn't know was that mixing it with pasta is a very popular Japanese-Italian fusion dish. I've been dying to try it ever since. Sadly, I don't live anywhere near a Japanese market so I had to put this thought in the back burner.

Saturday night, hubby and I had a dinner double date in Irvine and there was a Korean market on the same complex as the restaurant. Even though Tarako/Mentaiko is Japanese, I decided to go inside and search for it. I found a small container labeled "Salted Whiting Roe" that contained 4 membrane sacs. Truthfully I had no idea if Whiting fish is the same as Cod fish but it was the only thing I found that looked like Tarako/Mentaiko so I went for it and hoped for the best. Once I got home, I googled Whiting fish and found out that it's a cod-like fish. Pheww... :) So I made Tarako spaghetti for lunch yesterday and surprisingly it was so fast and easy to make. And not was oh so delicious!! I'll definitely try this recipe again using Mentaiko and explore other pairings using this delicacy so stay tuned...

This recipe is adapted from: Chubby Hubby

Makes 5 servings

1 pkg. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
4 sacs Tarako/Mentaiko
3 T. butter, salted
2 large shallots, finely diced
1 C. half and half (I used fat-free)
3 T. dry white wine
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. Japanese mayonaise
1/4 C. nori strips + extra of garnish
5 soft-boiled eggs

Cooking instruction:

1. Cook the spaghetti according to the package (minus 1 minute). Drain and reserve 1/2 C. of the pasta water.

2. Cut the sac lengthwise and scrape out the fish eggs with a spoon and set aside.

2. In a large pan, melt butter under medium heat then add shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes until opaque.

3. Add half and half, white wine, and lemon juice and simmer for a few mintues until sauce thickens. Stir in the fish eggs into the cream mixture.

5. Add spaghetti and pasta water into the pan and mix for 1-2 minutes until pasta becomes al dente.

6. To serve, place pasta on a plate. Top with a softboil egg and garnish with nori strips. If you like it spicy, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Banana Egg Rolls

I don't know about your family but in my household, once bananas get too ripe and mushy, no one wants to eat them raw anymore. And I just hate to throw away food that are completely edible. Here are my solutions.

If I'm strapped for time, the fastest way is to use them to make smoothies. But when I have a bit more time like today, I like to make banana egg rolls. I also add either jackfruit (a tropical fruit you can buy canned at most Asian supermarket) or chocolate sprinkles to the filling for variety. They're a hit and always gone in an instant!

Makes 20 egg rolls

20 spring roll wrappers
5 ripe bananas (cut into 4, lengthwise)
1 can jackfruit (drain, and cut meat into small strips)
1/2 C. chocolate sprinkles
oil for frying

Cooking instruction:

1. Place 1 piece of banana on one corner of the wrapper. Add a tablespoon of either the jackfruit or sprinkles. Tightly wrap the filling like you would an egg roll. Continue until all the wrappers and fillings are used.

2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry 4-5 egg rolls at a time until skin turn medium brown, turning once. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm by themselves or a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Note: Don't use these bananas to make banana fritters because the bananas will melt and you'll end up with oil splatters and a gooey mess (I know from experience :P). If you want to make banana fritters, use ripe plantains. They stay firm during the frying process.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ramen with Crab and Corn Soup

I made Crab and Corn Soup last weekend and since hubby was out of town for a few days this week, I still had some leftovers. To spare him from eating the same thing again I decided to change it up a bit. I simply boiled noodles, poured the hot soup over, and topped it with a soft boiled egg and sliced green onions and tadaaa...ramen is served! Hubby loved it so that's always a good sign! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar

I can't believe I've missed out all these years by not eating at Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar until last night...especially because it's only a few miles away from my house! I first heard about Anchos 3 years ago from a co-worker who kept raving about their food and awesome margaritas. If you go to their website, they have video segments showing you how they take pride in the way they prepare their food. All the ingredients are fresh, from the vegetables to the meat. They never use anything from a can or pre-packaged. Their chips, salsa, and flour tortillas are all made fresh throughout the day.

I've been wanting to eat here but hubby's not too fond of Mexican food...but now I know Anchos is more a Southwestern/Tex-Mex style cuisine so he has no excuse next time. Knowing my hubby is out of town this week, two of my girlfriends suggested an impromptu dinner get-together. So they left their hubbies at home and we met at Anchos. We were not disappointed!

We arrived about 6:45pm and the dining room was pretty full but we got a table right away. I do hear it gets pretty packed on the weekends so expect some wait time. The restaurant is one large dining room with Spanish/Mariachi music blasting. It's a great place for families or to hang out with your buddies...I wouldn't recommend coming here for a quiet romantic dinner though.

Our server Emili was very pleasant, friendly and upbeat - you can tell she loves working there. She immediately placed homemade chips and salsa at the table. The chips were warm and crunchy. And the salsa was so fresh and flavorful -- the tomatoes, onions, and peppers are roasted on the mesquite grill before they're blended with other ingredients.

Since I've heard great reviews about their margaritas, we decided to try the strawberry and mango margaritas -- we ordered them virgin since one of my girlfriends has a bun the the oven and we don't want her to feel left out. They came in a beer mug and topped with whipped cream, almost like a milkshake. Both were good but my girlfriends liked the mango better because it's less sweet than the strawberry.

Another great thing about Anchos is that you get fresh flour tortillas for free. There's a tortilla machine in the middle of the dining room (picture above). The server would drop flour doughs into a funnel where they get pressed into flat 6" round tortillas then move through a fire oven to cook. The server then take the hot tortillas straight to the table with butter packets on the side. They're a bit thick like pita bread but soft and doughy. Rub some butter on it then take a bite - I'm not kidding...they're the best tortillas I've ever had! They're so good that we asked for seconds (even though there were still a couple left) so we can take some to-go.

For dinner we decided to share to leave room for dessert. The first entree we ordered was Steak Tacos "Al Carbon" (3 fresh flour tortillas filled with mesquite grilled steak) served with rice and beans. The steak was tender and juicy - you can ask to have the steak cooked to your liking. The portion is pretty generous so you can divide the steak and make 2-3 extra tacos.

The second entree we ordered was Camarones Alambres (Jumbo Shrimps, bacon wrapped, and mesquite grilled) served with butter dipping, guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and onions, rice and beans. I never knew shrimp and bacon make a wonderful combination. This dish was absolutely delicious!

For dessert we went with the classic Flan, one of my favorites. I prefer smooth and silky flan and the texture of this flan was a bit too firm for me...but delicious nevertheless.

The best surprise of the night was when we found out Anchos is celebrating their 20th year in business. So each day, from Nov. 2-8, there are different specials. Last night was "Celebrate 20 years with 20%"...meaning, we got 20% off from our total bill. Awesome!! :) We went home stuffed and happy. We'll be back again for sure...with hubbies in tow!

Anchos Southwest Grill & Bar
10773 Hole Ave.
Riverside, CA 92505
(951) 352-0240

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crab and Corn Soup

It's November and I can't believe we're still having daytime highs in the 80s! But with the cooler nights, I was craving something warm and comforting. Crab and corn soup is definitely one of the comfort foods I grew up eating -- it's like the 'chicken noodle soup' in my family. The best part is that it's so fast and easy to make!

Makes 10-12 servings


1 lb. crab meat
4 C. chicken broth
4 C. water
3 cans cream of corn

3 cans whole kernel corn
1 medium brown onion (chopped)
1 bunch green onions (sliced)
3 T. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. corn starch

Cooking instruction:

1. Add all ingredients, except the corn starch, into a large stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve corn starch in 1/2 C. water then stir into the pot to thicken the

3. Serve hot.

If you're allergic to crab, you can substitute the crab meat with chicken. Just boil the chicken, shred, and chop into small pieces. Then lightly beat 2 eggs and add to the soup after Step #2.
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