Quick & Easy


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.

 

 

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We’ve all ordered it–that hot, soft centered individual sized chocolate cake.  Its decadent and amazing. Served with confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream–and is there really anything better?

Okay–so i’ll stop short of calling these Godiva cakes or Molten Lava Cakes as you’ve all become accustomed to ordering at your everyday American Restaurant.  This version isn’t quite as liquid-y with the chocolate center.  The filling in these Individual Soft Centered Cakes may not be quite as runny–but rest assured, the center is delicious.  Cut into the cake, and you’ll find a warm, chocolate syrup filling.  This cake is no consolation prize!

So it pains me a little bit to share this recipe–not because it’s not AMAZING–but I like basking in the “ooohing” and “ahhing” I get every time I serve this dessert.  People naturally assumed I meticulously crafted the dessert or exerted myself doing so.  Ummm…not so much.

This is soooooooooooooooooooo easy!  It barely takes anytime and in my opinion?  It’s almost fool proof.  Try it.  Your guests will be left stunned at how amazing these are…and you’ll be left with energy to actually enjoy their company.

As a side note, I did make some Chocolate Lava/Godiva Cakes this Christmas for my boss (it was his Secret Santa Gift!) that were out of this world.  Recipe will come soon!

Individual Soft Centered Chocolate Cake (Molten Chocolate Cake)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
  • 8 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks only
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cake flour

Directions

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Preheat oven to 450°F.  Whip eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer for 10 minutes on high speed.
  2. Fold melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture. Fold in flour just until combined.
  3. Butter and sugar four 6-ounce ramekins, then spoon mixture into ramekins.
  4. Bake for about 9–10 min or just until the top and sides are set.   The center will be quite soft.
  5. Let cake sit out of the oven for about 2 minutes, then unmold onto a plate.
  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, fruit–or whatever you please.
  7. Enjoy!
Original Recipe from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

So…I’ve been terribly lazy.  I haven’t made a thing in the last week.  Mike’s been studying at school for his midterms (last 2 are this Thursday–thank goodness!) and I couldn’t bring myself to step foot in the kitchen if no one was going to be around to eat it.  Even worse–I’ve been eating out for lunch at work.  Not such a great start at saving money for the wedding.  So, after spending $7.50 on a mediocre boar’s head sandwich today, I decided  it was time to get my act together.

A few weeks ago, Mike and I were at Crema in Seal Beach for brunch.  Because he was being quite the party pooper, he opted to have lunch instead of breakfast.  What was he thinking?  Either way, needless to say, he was unsatisfied with the lack of eggs and syrup and noshed on my breakfast.  The highlight of his meal though, was a fantastic bowl of Italian Wedding Soup.  It was delicious!  There was no doubt in my mind i was going to give it whirl in my own kitchen.  And why not?  It’s a fairly easy dish to pull off.

Tonight, alone in my apartment and kinda missing his face, I decided to have a big pot of soup ready for his return at 11:15.  I’ll get a whole 30 minutes with him before I have to go to bed and get ready for work the next morning.  Wow, as I write this…I realize how much I miss him.  Okay, onward with this post.  Luckily, I had most of the ingredients in my fridge (with the exception of endive, but baby spinach is a great substitute in my book).

Preparation takes a tad longer than cooking time–but  you won’t be disappointed.  This is such a tasty and cheap dinner to put together on short notice.

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

Meatballs:

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 bread crumbs
3/4  cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper

Soup:

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 oz orzo pasta
6 oz baby spinach
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt, paprika,  and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

To make the meatballs: Stir the grated onion, Italian parsley, egg, garlic, salt, and bread crumbs in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and turkey. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil  in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and orzo and simmer  until the meatballs are cooked through and orzo is tender.  This should take about 8 minutes or so.  Add spinach.  In the meantime, whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Add 1 tsp of paprika, stir to mix.  Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


Oh boy was it crazy hot this weekend…so hot, I woke up so alert I couldn’t and despite all my efforts I simply couldn’t go back to sleep.  So, I decided to make the most of the morning and make breakfast for the Mike and my sister.  Yeah, I know…who is this person?!  I gave the fridge a once over–and quickly made up my mind.  Pancakes! Pancakes! Pancakes!

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal–ironically, I never really have breakfast on the weekends.  And when I do have the time–I’m quick to coerce Mike into taking me to Starling diner.  But, I absolutely LOVE this recipe!  The pancakes are just perfect little fluffy pillows of goodness.  Best of all, they’re super easy!  If you have some leftover buttermilk in your fridge after a baking project–this is the best way to make use of it!

Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I originally found the recipe.  It’s something I’ve had in notebook since college.

Note–the pictures for this post are terrible! It was hot and the pancakes were warm and I just wanted to eat.  I simply didn’t invest much effort into taking better pictures. Sorry! But rest assured–these were awesome pancakes!

Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes about 6 medium pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons milk
1 eggs
1 tablespoon and 2-1/4 teaspoons butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
sliced berries
powdered sugar

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. Combine both mixtures when you’re right before cooking.  Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Make sure griddle/pan is ready before spooning on batter.  To test the pan, place a few droplets of water into the pan–if it sizzles, you’re good and ready.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a  fork to blend. Stir just until blended–do not overmix! batter will be thicker than traditional pancake batter.   Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Top pancakes with berries, dust with powdered sugar, and serve with maple syrup. Enjoy!

While many people like to turn their nose up at casseroles, I’m a bit intrigued by them.  Why, I have no idea–since casseroles are really just meant to be quick thrown together meals.  Maybe it’s because I’m Asian and I didn’t grow up on dishes like this–can it be?  That a casserole is…I’m going to say it…just a tad exotic to someone like me?  The very thought makes me giggle.  But do keep in mind, that I’ve only had meatloaf 2 years ago.  Come to think of it, what many people deem to be classic American comfort food, I’ve really never had.  This sounds like a challenge, no?  I think I might have to find time to make some meatloaf or pot roast in the near future!

Anyhow, after some blog surfing I found this gem!  Was i dying to make a casserole…not especially…but if you’re going to make a casserole, chicken tortilla is certainly the way to go.  And boy, was I happy I gave this recipe a chance–it’s absolutely delicious!  To be honest, I felt as thought I was having a wonderful plate of chicken nachos.   I gave my sister’s boyfriend the first taste, and he gobbled it right up.  This is seriously one tasty dinner if you’re short on time.  Bonus?  Leftovers are delicious!  I definitely had a few people at work do the sniff and double take.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, butterflied into halves (4 halves total)
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp. minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I used 2 peppers–I like my spice!)
1¾ cups chicken broth
5 cups tortilla chips, broken into large pieces
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Dash of Paprika (I love paprika…so I use about 1/2 tsp)
Dash of Pepper
Salt

Directions:
Pat the chicken halves dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.  Chicken may not be thoroughly cooked at this time.  You will be cooking it completely later.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic, chipotle, dash of parika, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.  Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer.

Stir in half of the tortilla chips.  Nestle the chicken into the broth and cook over medium-low heat until cooked through in about 10 minutes.  Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces.  I use two forks to pry the meat apart.

Return the shredded chicken to the skillet with the tomatoes, ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, and a dash of pepper.  Stir in the other half of the tortilla chips until they are incorporated and moistened.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and browning, about 2-3 minutes.  Top with remaining cilantro and serve, allowing the casserole to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Voila!

Adapted from Pink Parsley

I’ve never had Hamburger Helper.  Not for any health related issue really, but because there was really never anything too appealing about it.  Why pay to toss your food into dehydrated cheese powder, loads of sodium, and who knows what?  Okay, okay…I still like Mac and Cheese from a box.  It’s a childhood thing…but even then, I probably have it once a year at most…with lots of sriracha.  Any how, I was at Ralph’s the other day stocking up on some butter and cream cheese (got hired to make cupcakes for a 4th of July Party!  But more on that later!) and the woman in front of me had a cartful of Hamburger Helper!  I think she must have seen the shock/curiosity in my face because she chuckled and told me, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.  And just so you know, I have 4 boys.  And it’s actually quite good.”

4 boys?  I could feel my ovaries shriveling.  Yikes.

Funny enough, I was looking for some ideas for dinner last night and came across a very Hamburger Helper oriented recipe that was rather interesting.  I don’t know what compelled me to Google “Homemade Hamburger Helper,”  but I did.   Homemade, yes.  Unhealthy? I’m thinking very much so.  But I was curious and Mike has a strange affinity for foods like this.  What do I mean?  I mean when there’s a sale on Banquet frozen foods, he gets excited.  And no matter how much I try talking him out of eating crap like that, he manages to win me over with his nostalgic references to his youth and how much he loved them as a child after having lived in Africa for 8 years.  Yes, when he wants something…he’s quick to talk about living in Africa.  I’m weak.  He talks about his life in Africa and I melt.

I digress. Where was I?  Oh right.  So after finding the recipe online, I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.  Plus, I’d we’d both have some to bring to work the next day.

Creamy Taco Mac

Ingredients:
1¼ lbs. lean ground turkey
12 oz. dry rotelli pasta (anything with grooves is nice–catches all sauce!)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. of your favorite taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
dash of Tapatio
chopped cilantro

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Prepare pasta as directed on package.  Once al dente, drain, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through (no longer pink), add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and stir until the cream cheese is melted and the everything is well blended.  Season with salt, pepper, and Tapatio to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Serve with chopped cilantro (makes all the difference!)

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Sometimes you come home late at night, you have hungry, unexpected guests (you guessed it, my sister and her boyfriend) and you’re just tired.  Exhausted even.  And well, that happens to me quite often.  This time, I gave the pantry and fridge a good look over and was fortunate enough to have some great ingredients on hand.  And we all know that when you’re tired and have a limited amount of energy, pasta is always a lifesaver.

Spinach, Bacon, and Tomato Farfalle

Cooked farfalle
4-5 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
handful of fresh basil, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of favorite italian spice
dash of cayenne pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, cook bacon.  Once bacon is cooked, place on plate lined with paper towel.  Reserve 2-3 tbsp of bacon grease  for the dish.  If you want to be healthier, save the bacon grease for another day, and use olive oil instead.  Throw in tomatoes, spinach, and garlic.  Saute until vegetables are cooked.  Will take no more than 4 minutes.    Season with salt, cayenne, and italian spice.  Add farfalle and toss until evenly coated.  Add pepper.  Once dish is ready, throw in sliced basil and combine.  Cook for about another minute, remove from heat, and ready to serve.  Top pasta with Parmesan, if so desired. I prefer a dash of crushed chili peppers!

Simplicity can be good!