Peanut Butter was on sale a few months ago and I bought alot. I mean, a crazy amount of peanut butter–7 jars for 2 people.  And while the peanut butter wasn’t going to go bad, staring at all that peanut butter on a daily basis was starting to give me the baking itch.

Two weeks ago, I made peanut butter pie for a coworker’s birthday. I made tons of it.  This week, I stared down the rest of that opened jar of smooth peanut butter and just knew–I had to make peanut butter cookies.  I had a WONDERFUL go to recipe–but I couldn’t find it!  It drove me nuts…after about an hour of searching, I gave up and decided to go online to find another recipe.  It didn’t take long before I found David Lebovitz’s recipe and decided it was the one.  For one, he’s David Lebovitz.  And two, the recipe promised a slightly crisp and chewy peanut butter cookie. How could I resist?

Verdict?  I want my old recipe back!  Let me provide a little more feedback–the cookie itself was definitely soft on the inside.  It was moist–but on that note, it was also very dense and fragile.  This is a very peanut buttery cookie.  So if you’re looking for something dense, and almost “flourless” tasting, this is the recipe for you!  While it didn’t blow me away, I sure did enjoy it with a glass of milk.

My search will continue to find that oh-so-perfect recipe I had just a year ago.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes approximately 30 cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating the cookies
1/2 cup packed granulated light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural-style)
1 large egg, at room temperature

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated and brown sugars, and peanut butter on medium speed just until smooth. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands until smooth.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. (The rest gives the ingredients time to meld so the cookies bake up especially soft and chewy.)

Remove the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Pour some granulated sugar into a small bowl.

Pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and place them 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. When you’ve filled the baking sheets, flatten and make a crosshatch pattern on each cookie by pressing down on the ball with the back of the tines of a fork.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies begin to brown around the edges but the centers still look somewhat uncooked, 9-10 minutes. (Remove them from the oven before they look done so they’ll stay chewy once cooled.)

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Room for Dessert

I’m not going to vouch for the authenticity of this recipe–even if the original author has dubbed her recipe “Taqueria Style Tacos.”   For one, the recipe contains soy sauce.  I wasn’t too keen on trying it…and I moved my mouse to close out the recipe–but how do you ignore a recipe that has 4.5 stars out of 5 and has close to 600 reviews.  So I begrudgingly gave it try…and you know what?  It’s pretty darn good!   Mike had no idea I used soy sauce in the marinade (to be fair, i cut down the soy sauce–i couldn’t bare to use that much!) and he loved it.  We both came to the conclusion that this definitely wasn’t the authentic dry rub flavors we associate with carne asada.  BUT in the end, we both really enjoyed it and would definitely make it again.  While not Mexican, there’s something great about the marinade.

That being said, if you make some pico de gallo and throw on some avocado or guacamole–you’ll find life is good all the same.

Carne Asada

3 pounds flank/skirt steak
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce (*original recipe called for 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (original recipe called for 2 limes, juiced–but my coworker swears by OJ–as that’s how his family has made it his entire life)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika

Pico De Gallo

1 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno, diced–seeds removed
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Lay the flank steak in a large glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of two limes, and olive oil. Season with salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and paprika. Whisk until well blended, then pour over the steak in the dish. Turn over once to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for 1 to 8 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 chopped white onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime. Set aside to use as a relish for the tacos.
  3. Grill steak to your liking
  4. Warm tortillas (corn or flour) and serve with your favorite garnishes.  I threw on freshly sliced avocados.
Carne Asada Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Pico De Gallo recipe is my own.

I have a an inexplicable habit of making things harder for myself.  I always seem to think it’s going to give me some wild sense of accomplishment to bake a million things at once or make every bit from scratch.  In actuality, I would say that’s the case 70% of the time.  The other 30% of the time?  I”m left drained and utterly exhausted.

And it’s in times like this, that I remember how great a simple everyday cookie is.  So easy and almost effortless–and nothing is more satisfying that watching someone’s eyes light up when you bring them a warm cookie with a glass of milk.

So fairly recently, when a  friend was down in the dumps–she asked me for cookies.  And while chocolate chip cookies are everyone’s go to, I happen to prefer Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

My sister-in-law shared her recipe with me years ago and I think it’s a perfect base.  I modify things from time to time to cater to certain people, but I never stray too far.  Make these cookies thin and chewy or thick and chewy–it’s up to you.  Just one minor step to add for the thicker/denser cookie (which is what I did here–since my friend likes her cookies that way).

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Makes approximately 24 cookies

2cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups uncooked rolled oats
1 1/4 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and set aside.

In a bowl fixed to a stand mixer, cream melted butter, granulated and brown sugars.  Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.  Add water and vanilla and mix until well blended, about 5 minutes.

Add oats, raisins and flour mixture to sugar mixture and stir until thoroughly blended.  If you’re looking for thicker/denser cookies, place the batter in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  If you prefer your cookies flatter and chewy,  then continue to drop by large tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. (I generally like them flatter).

Allow cookies to bake until light, brown–about 10-12 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with glass of ice cold milk!

I would have to say that an Avocado smoothie  is hands down–my go to summer guilty pleasure.  It’s wonderfully rich and refreshing–and for all you cynics–tastes nothing like guacamole.   Really, I promise. No onions, lime juice–nothing of the sort.  Yes, it’s strange looking–but have a try and I promise you–you’ll be hooked.

My mom once owned a Sinh To (smoothie) stand in Vietnam before migrating to the US in 1981.  She often reminisces about how successful the stand was and how much ice my brothers had to pick away at to keep up with demand.  So growing up, if you wanted an avocado smoothie–stories came hand in hand.  Plus, it was always a good idea to keep your eye on her–my mom would always try to sneak in some durian into the shake–thinking it was the best combination.  What’s a durian?  A putrid and extremely pungent smelling fruit consumed widely in South East Asia.  Gym sock in in my smoothie–no thanks!

The recipe for the smoothie is very basic–ripe avocados, sugar, milk and ice.  Basic, basic, basic.  You can make the smoothie with condensed milk to take the shake to a whole new level of rich (I won’t pretend–it’s tasty!), but definitely not necessary.  Order an Avocado Shake at a restaurant or boba shop and you can be sure they add condensed milk, but if you’re looking to enjoy this at home–stick to the basics.


Alot of this is simply done by taste, so there’s really not a rock solid recipe.  But here’s a great starting place and change proportions to fit your taste.  Please note that Vietnamese Sinh To is generally a bit thicker than your everyday shake.  Think of it more as a dessert and not so much a shake and you might not be caught too off guard.  Either way, if you prefer your smoothie thinner–play around with the milk proportions until you get the right consistence.  I always start with the basics and end up modifying it as I go.

Enjoy!

Avocado Sinh To

Makes 2 servings

1 large ripe avocado
1 cup ice cubes or crush ice
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (or you can use just sugar)
1/4 cup milk

Scoop avocado and place into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse, then blend until smooth. If needed, adjust for sweetness and consistency.  Not sweet enough, add more condensed milk or sugar.  Too thick?  Add more milk.

You love garlic?  You’ll certainly LOVE these noodles.  I was on Yelp one day looking for some ideas.  The fiance had just finished a rough week of midterms and I wanted to take him out to dinner.  Searching for anything scrumptious from OC to LA I came across a familiar name–Crustacean.  Yes, I’ve heard of the famous Anh family.  An establishment so secretive, they have trap doors or whatnot that guards the real kitchen, guards their precious recipes.  No doubt, their most famous dish–garlic noodles.

I’m Vietnamese and I  love Vietnamese food, but I simply can’t justify spending that kind of money on food that’s classified as Vietnamese fusion–yet shares little or no resemblance to the food I ate growing up.  I don’t know if that makes sense…but it’s just principle.  Again, I’ve never eaten here…but would be open to do so if anyone were to treat me to a meal 🙂

Either way, I was still quite curious about the noodles and searched the web for copycat recipes.  Lo and behold–tons of similar recipes from foodies alike.  All the recipes were rather plain–so I decided to forgo creating a copycat dish–and instead just create a dish inspired by the famous garlic noodles.

First time?  I followed the oil/butter ratio called for in one recipe and found it to be WAY too oily. No bueno.  Second time? AMAZING.   So good Mike had a huge bowl of noodles after his Chipotle dinner.

As far as the recipe goes–bear with me.  I didn’t really take exact measurements and did a lot of adding as I went along.  My mom would be so proud of me.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh (not dried) Asian yellow noodles (you want to use something like pancit)
4 tablespoons butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (I put mine thru a garlic press)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup reserved pasta water (I always save 1 cup–just in case)
salt and pepper to taste
up to 2 teaspoons of sugar
***optional–you may want to add some vegetables that when sauteed, cook rather quickly (I used baby bok choy)

For Shrimp:

10-20 uncooked shrimp, shell removed and deveined
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to thoroughly coat shrimp)
3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of dried basil

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, and dried basil. Mix to combine.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Let marinate for at least an hour.

In the meantime, cook the noodles.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water (as you would with pasta).  Add the noodles and a dash of oil to keep them from sticking.   Pancit noodles cook much quicker than italian pastas–so keep you eye out for them.   Noodles are generally cooked in about 5-7 minutes.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and set aside.  Do not run under cold water and make sure to reserve up to 1 cup of pasta water.

Now, in a large skillet–saute the shrimp until just barely cooked.  Remove shrimp from heat, but reserve oil.  (If adding vegetables–saute them now and remove from heat)

Add butter to reserved oil from shrimp. Once melted, add garlic and saute until cooked and fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add 1/4 cup pasta water, oyster sauce, Maggie Seasoning Sauce, and sugar.  Mix thoroughly.

Throw in noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.   Now–this is where the recipe becomes all you.  Add more oyster sauce/maggi if you’d like it saltier.  Add more pasta water to make the mixture creamier.  Add a tad more sugar, if too salty.  Once you taste test and flavor the noodles to your liking, I like to let the noodles cook a tad longer–tossing the noodles every 2-3 minutes–for about 5-6 minutes.

To finish, throw shrimp and vegetables back in and mix well.

Enjoy!

I am a creme brulee fiend.  If its on the menu for dessert–you can bet I’ll order it.  I love the stuff.  I love the tapping noise before you break into the sugar shell…I know, but sometimes you just have to find joy in the simple things.

Creme brulee is simply one of the easiest desserts to put together. Just a few short steps–and you’re on your way.  I had a few recipes bookmarked–and decided to use Alton Brown’s methodology while varying up the proportions just a tad.  Not because Alton Brown isn’t awesome–but because I simply didn’t have enough cream on hand.

End result?  Sooooooo good.  Creamy and rich custard with great hints of vanilla.  Mike was very happy. So happy–that he had three.


Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Makes 5 Servings

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4  cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I added a tad more vanilla since my vanilla bean was on the punier side)
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 quarts hot water
additional sugar for browning (a little under a tbsp per ramekin)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp, and salt into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.  Allow cream to sit for 15 minutes to maximize the the vanilla flavor.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.  About 5 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and whisk until blended.  Now,  add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Alton’s recipe suggests you remove the creme brulee from the fridge at least 30 minutes before torching the sugar on top.  I imagine this is to allow the custard to warm up a bit…but i did not do this.  We just couldn’t wait a second longer.  Top each ramekin evenly with a little under a tbsp of sugar.  Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow creme brulee to sit for a minute or 2 before eating (allows shell to harden).

Enjoy!

Adapted from Alton Brown and Allrecipes.com

I’m well again! No coughing, no sniffling, no congestion–and best of all–no wandering around the apartment like a mindless zombie.   After 2 months of wondering what it feels like to be normal again, I am indeed myself again. With renewed energy, I’ve been excited to head back into the kitchen and start up the baking again.  This post? Involves absolutely no baking–just a wonderfully fast and easy way to whip up some deliciousness.

Before I get into the Cheesecake stuffed strawberries–I just want to give you guys a look at THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT (EVER)!  Every so often, I tinker with the idea about getting a DSLR…but I always end up chickening out of making such a huge purchase.  But it was time…and I decided I was going to do it.  Leave it to  Mike (aka best fiance in the world) to rush out and get me one before my designated April 1st purchase.  So, I am now the proud owner of the Canon Rebel T1i (and a Canon Rebel T1i for Dummies book I’ve yet to read).  It’s beautiful!

Okay, onward with the recipe!  Mike’s cousin sent me a link to this recipe a few months back and now that we’re back in strawberry season, I was excited about giving it a try.  Strawberries stuffed with cheesecake? Ingenious!  I had a baby shower to attend this weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give these guys a shot.  And–they were DELICIOUS!  To top it off, they’re super easy!  And to answer your question–yes, they taste just as you’d expect them to.

Make them…make them now!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Original Recipe from Indigo’s Sugar Spectrum

Good for about 20 servings ( 2 green baskets of strawberries)

INGREDIENTS

2 green baskets of Strawberries, washed and dried.
1 8oz package of Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
6-8 Graham Crackers, crushed
Semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)

  1. Once the strawberries are dry, slice off a bit of one side.
  2. Take a melon baller and spoon out the center of the strawberry, being careful to keep the walls of the strawberry intact.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling: With a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Now, take the strawberry and fill the center with the cheesecake filling.
  5. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs over the stuffed strawberries.  Take a spoon and gently pat the graham crackers into the filling until crumbs “stick.”
  6. Drizzle strawberries with melted chocolate*.
  7. Place strawberries in refrigerator until ready to be enjoyed.

*Whenever I plan to drizzle desserts with melted chocolate/candy melts–I use Wilton squeeze bottles.  Fill the bottles with your choice of chocolate and carefully place bottle in a small pot with hot water to melt.  Super easy and a super neat way to enhance any dessert.  You can easily find them at your local Michael’s Craft Store.