March 2011

It was my friend’s birthday this past weekend, and you better believe I took advantage of this opportunity to make these Oreo Cookie and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes.  (baking and eating 24 of these all by myself would have been a disaster.)

A whole oreo + cheesecake batter + crumbled oreo bits = whole lot of deliciousness.  No matter how full our bellies were after our delicious birthday meal, there was always a little room for one (or two) of these.  And who needs milk when you can wash these down with cocktails. :)

To makes these Oreo Cookie and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes, start lining the cupcake tins.

Then place a whole Oreo of each cupcake liner.

Tigger, the cat, is patiently waiting.  She’s hoping to lick up some potential batter drippings.  Silly girl.

Reserve some Oreo to roughly chop up.

Pour the chopped Oreo bits into the cheesecake batter (made from cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract).

Gently mix the Oreo bits into the batter.

Dive in.

Just kidding.

Bake.

When the cupcakes come out of the oven, let it cool before refrigerating for at least 4 hours.

Viola!  Ready to eat.

Oreo Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

Print the Recipe!

From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes.
Yield: 24 – 30
Prep time:  30 minutes
Total cooking time:  1 hour
Ready in: 5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.
  3. With an electric mixer or KitchenAid Stand on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined.  Beat in vanilla.
  5. Mix in eggs, one at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. Beat in sour cream and salt.
  7. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.
  8. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top.
  9. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes until filling is set.
  10. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  11. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight).
  12. Remove from tins just before serving.

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Hello there, Spring!  Oh, how I have missed you!

Okay, okay, we’re still a day away, but it’s basically Spring.  Yesterday, it was in the mid 70s, sunny, and gorgeous out. It felt so nice to have a nice dinner seated outdoors. You get fresh air, a nice breeze, and … well, the opportunity to people watch more. I enjoy that. :) .

One negative thing about Spring, though, is that my finances suffer.  Maybe it is the false impression of getting free money from tax returns, or the (again) false impression that I have nothing to wear in this warm weather, or the idea of Spring cleaning and the need to purchase new things to replace the ones you donated … whatever it is, when Spring arrives, I always seem to go on a shopping binge.

I try to control it.  I really do.

But, it’s hard.

Today, I’m debating over getting these Kate Spade Fierce Ballet Flats:

*Gush*!  So adorable.

Peek-a-boo.

I saw these on Kate Spade’s website a month ago and keep going back to it.  But, recently, I noticed that it’s no longer on their website.

I will admit, I panicked a little.

For some reason, I decided to see if Amazon.com had it.  (They sell everything.  It’s a bit ridiculous.)  But hey, no complaints here!  Because, there they were – the adorable Kate Spade Fierce Ballet Flats in the rose gold color.

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As previously mentioned, I’ve been just a little obsessed with pork belly.  One of pork belly recipes I recently tried was Momofuku’s signature Pork Buns, which can be found in David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook.   They came out amazing.  Get ready to drool.

These were so savory and succulent.  I can’t believe how easy (and inexpensive) they were to make.

These pork buns are basically braised pork belly, cucumbers, hoisin sauce, and green onions sandwiched together by some soft Chinese steamed buns.

When it comes to braising pork belly (or braising/roasting any meat, for that matter), there are two schools of thought on how it should be done.  Method one is to use high heat to sear the meat and then low heat to slowing cook it.  Method two is to first slowly cook the meat in low heat and then finish the meat off in high heat to create the crispy exterior.

It seems like David Chang has used both of these methods.  The one in his Momofuku cookbook, and the recipe he shared with www.gourmet.com.  Both recipes are extremely easy and essentially the same (just reverse in process).  I went with the recipe in his cookbook, which follows the first method.  The initial high heat renders out a bunch of fat so that when you get to the low and slow, you’re basically confiting the belly in it’s own pork fat bath.

The result:

My place smelled so good while this was in the oven.  Pork belly heaven.

I should warn you that although this recipe was easy, you will need to start making this a day or two in advance of serving.  This is because you will need to brine the pork belly for at least six hours before braising (I brined it overnight).  Plus, after you braise the pork belly, you will need to put it in the refrigerator to chill so that it can be cut into pieces.

Don’t try to slice the pork belly warm because it will fall apart on you.  Trust me, I tried (I couldn’t wait to try it when it came out of the oven!).  Big mistake.  So please make sure the pork belly is chilled, and then slice away!

Heat up the sliced pork belly.  Then it’s ready to be assembled on some steamed buns with some hoisin sauce, cucumbers and green onions.

Please note, Momofuku’s recipe calls for homemade pickles instead of cucumbers.  I just prefer fresh cucumber slices over pickled ones.  The recipe for the homemade pickles can be found here.

Okay folks, I have a confession.  Don’t hate me.  I was too lazy to make my own steamed buns.  Instead, I picked up some pre-made ones in the freezer section of a Chinese market.  I’ve made steamed buns in the past with my mom, and in all honesty, I personally think homemade steamed buns are not worth the hassle, especially when you’re not making a lot of it (my mom makes enough for a small army each time she makes them).  With that said, if you want to try making them, please don’t let my own laziness influence you.  You can find the recipe here.

Here’s another one assembled in another order.  The order you put the ingredients on the steamed bun really doesn’t matter – just make sure the pork belly is there!

Yum!

Okay, I won’t tease you anymore with pictures.  Here’s the recipe:

Pork Buns

Print this Recipe!

Adapted from David Chang’s Momofuku Pork Bun Recipe

Makes 8 buns
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total cooking time: 2 hours
Ready in: 9 hours

Ingredients

  • One 2-pound slab of pork belly (with the skin removed)
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Green onions, chopped
  • 8 steamed buns

Directions

  1. Place the pork belly in a small roasting pan (or any oven safe pan) just big enough to hold the pork belly snugly.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the salt and sugar together evenly.
  3. Rub the salt and sugar mix over the pork belly.  Try to use as much of the mixture as possible.  Discard any excess mixture.
  4. Cover the pan with a plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 6 to 24 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  6. Discard any liquid that came out in the pan.  Place the pork belly in the oven, uncovered and fat side up.
  7. Cook for 1 hour.  Baste the pork belly 30 minutes into this hour with the rendered fat.  Continue to baste it until the pork belly has a golden brown exterior.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and cook for another hour, or until the belly is tender.  To test if it’s tender, firmly poke the top of the pork belly with your finger.  It should have a down pillow-like feel.  If the pork is falling apart, then you have cooked it for too long.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pork belly to a plate.  Allow the pork belly to cool slightly.
  10. When the pork belly is cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.  Allow the pork belly to thoroughly chill.  This will allow it to firm up, so it can be sliced.  Trying to slice the down pillow-like pork belly is be a disaster.
  11. Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.
  12. Cut the pork belly into ½ inch thick slices.  Warm them in a pan over medium heat or in a microwave for just a minute.
  13. Place these in a steamed bun and garnish with some sliced cucumbers, chopped green onions and hoisin sauce.
  14. Eat immediately.

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I adore Anthropologie.  And not just for their cute clothes.

Truth be told, I love their kitchen, dining, and home decorating items the most.  I probably have 1/3 of their kitchen stuff (yes, I have a problem).  And don’t get me started on their massive selection of door knobs, dresser knobs and light switch plates.

This week, Anthropologie revealed that on March 24th, it will launch a Decorator Concept to twelve of its stores: London, UK; Atlanta, GA; Beverly Hills, CA; Chicago, IL; Corte Madera, CA; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Miami, FL; Nashville, TX; New York City, NY; Wayne, PA and Westport, CT.

The Decorator Concept will be a workshop-style space, similar to a design studio, inside these select stores where you will be able to browse products such as rugs, curtains, wallpaper swatches, textiles, etc. to help generate your own design ideas for the decor of your own home (and feel like a professional designer while you’re at it).   Design experts and design books will also be available at each store to help you gather your ideas, answer your questions, and provide you with information and inspiration for your own space.  The Decorator Concept will also host regular workshops with design experts.

If you don’t live near one of these twelve stores, the decorator concept will also be accessible to everyone online under the new “For the Decorator” section listed under Features on Anthropologie’s web site. This new feature will become available on March 17th. This section will provide tips and tools for you to design your home. Some of the featured tools will be a wallpaper calculator, glossary of common home terms, and upholstery fabric and wallpaper swatch requests.

This makes me want to buy a house …

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Last week I had a dream about eating Vietnamese spring rolls (also called Vietnamese summer rolls) and dipping (okay, more like lathering) them in bowls of sweet chili sauce and hoisin peanut sauce.

Is it weird that I dream about food?

Don’t answer that.

Well, this dream, of course, is a sign that I need to make some Vietnamese spring rolls ASAP.  Yes, I’m easily impressionable.

Okay, enough about my dreams.  Let’s make some spring rolls!

The spring rolls I made consist of thin clear vermicelli noodles, Thai basil leaves, mint leaves, cilantro, Boston lettuce, and cooked shrimp, all wrapped in a clear spring roll wrapper.

You will need to first cook some shrimp by boiling them in water for a few minutes.  I prefer to remove the shells and devein the shrimp before I cook them.  Also, you can save the uncooked shrimp shells in the freezer and use them to make seafood broth at a later time.  (Don’t worry, I’ll show you how on a later post.  :) ).

Next, you will need some thin clear vermicelli noodles.   I like this brand:


These are bean noodles, but rice noodles are also great, if not preferred by some people.
Boil them in water for a few minutes to make them soft.  Then remove the noodles and rinse them under cold water.  Set them aside in a bowl of cold water while you assemble the rest of your ingredients.

You will also need some spring roll wrappers.

As well as some roughly chopped cilantro, lettuce, mint and Thai basil.

Now, let’s start assembling!

First, soak a spring roll wrapper in a bowl of warm/hot water for about 2 or 3 seconds.  Don’t over soak or the wrapper will fall apart on you when you start wrapping!

When you take it out of the water, it will still seem to be a little dry, but don’t worry, that’s what you want.  It will be completely soft in a few seconds.  Place the wrapper on a flat surface.

Put some lettuce across the bottom center of the wrapper.  Top it with some of the vermicelli noodles.  Try to leave about an inch on each side of the wrapper.

Then put some cilantro, mint leaves and Thai basil leaves.

Now, start from the bottom of the wrapper and roll it over the ingredients.

Put the shrimp on top of this first fold.

Some people include the shrimp with the rest of the ingredients, but I like to keep mine separate.  You’ll see why in a second.

(BTW, I may or may not have taken a bite from that shrimp on the far right when making this roll.  What can I say, I was hungry.  Plus, I was going to eat this one myself anyway.)

Next, fold the sides of the wrapper inward.

And then tightly roll the rest of the spring roll.

Now do you see why I separate the shrimp from the rest of the ingredients?  You can see the shrimp on top of everything else, which makes for a better presentation.

And that’s it.  Wasn’t that easy?

These spring rolls are super healthy and are very refreshing (hence the reason they’re also known as summer rolls).  You can eat this as is, or dip them in some sauce (which I recommend).   I enjoy these with sweet chili sauce and hoisin peanut sauce.

Here’s the recipe for these Vietnamese Spring Rolls as well as the sweet chili sauce and hoisin peanut sauce.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Print this Recipe!

Makes 10 rolls
Prep time:  20 minutes
Total cooking time:  35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15 large cooked shrimp (about 1 lb.), peeled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 ounces rice (or bean) vermicelli noodles
  • 10 rice wrappers (8.5 inch or 22 cm diameter)
  • 5 leaves lettuce (boston or romaine lettuce works best)
  • 5 stalks fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 20-30 fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped if desired
  • 20 - 30 fresh mint leaves, chopped if desired

Directions

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.  Boil rice vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes, and drain.  Rinse with cold water and put in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Fill a large bowl with warm water.  Dip one wrapper into the warn water for 2-3 seconds to soften.
  3. Lay wrapper flat.  In a row across the bottom center of the wrapper, place lettuce, a handful of vermicilli noodles, and a few leaves of basil, mint, and cilantro, leaving about 1 inches uncovered on each side of the wrapper.
  4. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up and inward.  Place 3 shrimp halves on top of the first fold.
  5. Fold uncovered sides inward, and then tightly roll the wrapper up (like you would a burrito).
  6. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  7. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix water, fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lime juice, garlic chili sauce together.

Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz) hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce, add more for desired level of spiciness
  • 1 tablespoon plain roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix hoisin sauce, peanut butter, rice vinegar, garlic, sriracha sauce, and chopped peanuts.

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