05 May


Taffy Apple Cupcakes

taffyapplecupcakes

 May 23: National Taffy Day

At spring carnivals and fall festivals, we would sometimes snack on taffy apples when we were kids. The sticky-sweet fruit on a stick reminds us of the festive seasonal celebrations of our youth. Nowadays, it is simpler for us to eat sliced apples dipped in caramel sauce.

For National Taffy Day, we made taffy apple cupcakes and stuck a stick in the middle to mimic real taffy apples. The cupcakes contain chopped apples and the frosting is a combination of caramel (dulce de leche in Spanish), cream cheese and whipped cream.

These taffy apple cupcakes are a sweet substitute at spring carnivals and fall festivals and are most appropriate on National Taffy Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from MyRecipes.com)

For the apple cupcakes

  • 1 box spice (or carrot cake) mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tart apple, finely chopped to equal about one cup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box, adding the water, eggs and oil. Mix well.

taffyapplecupcakessteps1

Chop the apple and fold into the cake batter. Stir in the cinnamon.

taffyapplecupcakessteps2

Divide batter into paper cupcake liners, filling no more than 2/3 full.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, testing for doneness. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Make the frosting.

taffyapplecupcakessteps3

For the caramel cream frosting

(Adapted from Pillsbury)

  • 1 14 ounce can dulce de leche (caramel)
  • 1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • Green frosting (such as Wilton tube frosting) 

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the dulce de leche and cream cheese. Add the heavy whipping cream and mix until soft peaks form.

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Spread on top of the apple cupcakes. Toast the nuts by heating them in a small skillet over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn. Let cool.

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Sprinkle the tops of the cupcake with nuts. Stick a popsicle/lollipop/wooden craft stick in the middle. Pipe leaves with green frosting (optional). Refrigerate to set the frosting. Bring to room temperature before serving.

taffyapplecupcakessteps6

Notes

  • Dulce de leche(caramel) can be spread directly onto the cooled apple cupcakes, instead of the caramel cream frosting.
  • Toast the chopped walnuts by heating them in a skillet on medium high. Stir often with a wooden spoon to avoid burning the nuts.
  • Search our blog for other apple recipes.

Macedonia di Frutta

(Italian Fruit Cocktail)

May 13: National Fruit Cocktail Day

We visited Islander’s brother in Rome, Italy, when he was there during one summer for his congregational council meeting. Her parents joined us from Hawaii and we decided to make this our wedding anniversary trip with the family. We met her brother’s superior general at the headquarters of the worldwide order, toured St. Peter’s Basilica/Square in Vatican City, went sightseeing all over Rome (Colosseum, Pantheon, churches, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, squares, catacombs, etc.) and ate extremely well! The food in Italy was delicious and we frequently cooled off with gelato for dessert. But sometimes we wanted to eat a “lite” treat after touring around and sweating in the summer heat. Macedonia di frutta (marinated fruit) was a great option to enjoy chilled seasonal fruit slightly sweetened with sugar and lemon juice (or, for the cocktail version, white wine).

When we returned from Rome, Islander’s parents stayed with us in our South Texas home for a few more days before flying back to Hawaii. While they were still on the mainland, we wanted to recreate the simple fruit salad we ate in Italy using produce we could find locally and seasonally and made this for our family snack time. Back on the islands, they use tropical fruit from Daddy’s garden to make Macedonia di frutta.

Make this refreshing dish on a hot and humid summer day and on National Fruit Cocktail Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Seasonal favorite fruits (we used cantaloupe, honeydew melon, apple, peach, kiwi, plums, blueberries, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced (see Notes)

Directions

Peel and chop the fruit in bite sized pieces.

Place all together in a large bowl. Sprinkle sugar over the fruit. Squeeze the lemon juice over all. Mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Scoop into dessert dishes and serve cold.

Notes

  • Substitute the lemon juice for 2 tablespoons (or to taste) of white wine.
  • Grazie, caro Papà (thanks, dearest Daddy), for being the guest chef for this blog post.

Pico de Gallo

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

On “Taco Tuesdays” at Islander’s brother’s congregational community house in San Antonio, Texas, the Catholic brothers and priests would host university students at a prayer social. When they were short-staffed, we helped out the Mexican cooks (husband and wife team Sr. Gregorio y Sra. Sylvia) in the kitchen, chopping up vegetables, preparing the buffet line and setting the dessert table. Appetizers were always tortilla chips, salsa and pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo is a chunky fresh vegetable relish and condiment that is easy to make. It is a delicious side dish to serve as a snack and appetizer for Cinco de Mayo and makes any meal feel like a fiesta!

Recipe

(Inspired by Gregorio and Sylvia P.)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Roma or plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, deseeded and deveined, finely chopped
  • handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tortilla chips for serving

Directions

Prepare the vegetables by chopping the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro. Add all to a mixing bowl.

Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice into the vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with chips. Enjoy with cerveza (beer)!

Notes

  • We just love how the red tomatoes, white onion and green jalapeño peppers and cilantro leaves in this pico de gallo recipe are coincidentally the colors of Mexico.
  • Search our blog for more Mexican recipes.

Rey’s Portion Bread

May 4: Star Wars Day

How about some quick gourmet for Star Wars Day? Then try these recipes for “Rey’s Portion Bread”. The “bread” heats up instantaneously, just like in the movie “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”, and it is enough for a single serving (or two petite portions) for geeks on the go!

We have adapted two recipes for this blog post and used the magic of the microwave for the bread to cook quickly. They are as “appetizing as they look” (honestly, these mug cakes don’t taste that bad!). For Rey, the portion bread was her sustenance on the desert planet of Jakku; for film fans it could be an extra amusing snack or dessert on Earth. Either way, this is a fun food to eat on Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you!

Recipe I

(Adapted from StarWars.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup cake flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon matcha powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Grease a large ramekin or microwave safe mug or small bowl with the oil. In a separate bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar and matcha powder.

Add the baking powder and pinch of salt. Stir in the milk and vanilla until the ingredients are well combined.

Pour into the greased ramekin. Place in the microwave and heat on high for 40-45 seconds. Carefully remove from the microwave and cool slightly before eating.

Recipe II

(Adapted from Rosanna Pansino of “Nerdy Nummies”)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon matcha powder
  • 5 tablespoons self rising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablepoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons milk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature

Directions

In a bowl or plastic bag (the latter is for later use), combine the matcha powder, flour, salt and sugar.  In a small bowl, melt the coconut oil. Stir in the milk (cold milk will solidify the melted coconut oil).

Beat the egg into the oil-milk mixture. Add the dry to wet ingredients, stirring with a clean finger (like Rey did) or a whisk, until smooth and well blended. Portion the batter into two small ramekins (or one large mug). Microwave for 1½ minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave and cool slightly before eating.

Notes

  • In the second recipe, place the dry ingredients in a zipper top plastic bag (Rey received her rations this way) for later use. Whenever hunger hits, strike back like the Empire and prepare the portion bread by mixing the contents of the dry pack with fresh liquid ingredients.
  • If the mug cake looks a little undercooked, zap it in the microwave for another five seconds. Take it out and let the heat continue to cook as it cools slightly. Avoid overcooking as it will turn as hard as an asteroid rock.
  • Thanks to Islander’s brother for letting us borrow his Star Wars book, “The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary”, for the food photos above.
  • We have attended “Star Wars Celebration III” in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2005. Islander and her brother attended “Star Wars Celebration” in Chicago, Illinois, in 2019. Both were FANtastic experiences!
  • Look for more Star Wars recipes on our blog by searching under the Theme Menus section. 

Boterkoek (Dutch Butter Cake)

May 1: National Butter Day

Highlander flew on KLM Airlines once for a rare international business trip. After working in Germany for a week, he had a one-day stopover in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He did not have time to find too many souvenirs in the city to bring home. But he got a free KLM miniature building as a passenger on business class as a gift. These Delft Blue collectibles contain genever (Dutch gin). Since 1952, and nearly every year since then, only business class passengers have received a miniature building on their flight. KLM commissions a new design annually. Highlander’s 2008 #74 design is worth the minimum but there are serious collectors who pay premium prices for some exclusive miniatures to complete their villages!

We can’t afford to fly business class and collect other cute mini houses. But we can easily make a mini Dutch butter cake. We halved the original recipe because it is rich (like people who can travel luxuriously on KLM), especially since we used European-style butter with a creamier and higher fat content. This type of butter makes this snack cake very flavorful. So splurge on this ingredient to make boterkoek on National Butter Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened (we used European style butter)
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Directions

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Stir in the almond extract. Beat in the egg. Set asude, In another bowl, combine the flour with baking powder.

Gradually blend this into the butter mixture until smooth. The batter will be thick. Grease a 6-inch round cake pan. Press the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, testing the cake with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove from the pan. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Dutch butter cake is similar to the Swedish Visiting Cake and Spanish Ignacio almond cake recipes.
  • Serve boterkoek with tea and coffee.
  • Learn more about European butter vs. American butter from thekitchn.com website.
  • Search our blog for other Dutch recipes.

Han Solo Carbonite Cookies

May 25: Release date of the first Han Solo movie trilogy (2018)

Han Solo got a solo spin-off story in a “Star Wars” movie! The film, officially released today, features the origins of the space smuggler turned general in the Rebel Alliance/New Republic.

His character, portrayed by actor Harrison Ford, made his first appearance in 1977 in “Star Wars: A New Hope” (Episode IV) and was killed off in 2015 in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Episode VII). In 2018, actor Alden Ehrenreich portrays the young Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and may reprise his role in two more forthcoming films.

Han Solo is immortalized in pop culture history, much like his iconic scene in 1981’s “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back “ (Episode V) when he was frozen in carbonite. To celebrate the release of the new Han Solo movies, we made carbonite cookies à la LU Biscuits’ Le Petit écolier (“The Little Schoolboy”) cookies. The sugar cookie base is topped with a chocolate impression of Han Solo in his classic frozen state and finished with a shiny metallic silver glaze.

Make these classic cookies for the movie’s release and for a Star Wars themed celebration.

Recipe

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

For the sugar cookie base

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until a dough is formed. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. Cut out rectangular shapes 1.5 inches wide by 2.75 inches tall. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

For the chocolate “carbonite”

  • Chocolate or confectioner’s candy (such as Ghirardelli melting wafers or Wilton dark chocolate candy melts)
  • Silver edible powder, non-toxic
  • Alcohol base (Everclear or almond/lemon/orange extract)

Directions

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and stir until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into the Han Solo ice cube tray no thicker than ¼ inch. Tap the tray lightly to level out the chocolate. Refrigerate until firm. Carefully unmold the chocolate onto a paper towel.

pread a little melted chocolate on a rectangular cookie and press a Han Solo chocolate piece on top. Repeat to complete the rest of the cookies. In a small dish, put a little silver powder. Put an eyedropper or two of clear alcoholic liquid to make a thin paste. Paint over the Han Solo chocolates, being careful to avoid the cookie base. Let the cookies dry. Store covered in single layer.

Notes

  • Han Solo ice cube tray is available from Amazon.com.
  • For a cheaper “chocolate”, use Wilton candy melts.
  • Search our blog for other Star Wars-inspired recipes.

 

Lemon Elderflower Cake

May 19, 2018: The Royal Wedding Day of HRH Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle

Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day! Ever since Kensington Palace announced that Chef Claire Ptak would make their wedding cake, we have been curious about the recipe for lemon elderflower cake. According to the official announcement, the cake would “incorporate the bright flavors of spring…(and)…be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.”

There are many recipe versions of lemon elderflower cake but we tried the one published in People magazine. Their version is heavy and dense, unlike the light and fluffy cakes that we are used to. It is both rich and refreshing, which is befitting for a royal dessert. We also thinned down the basic buttercream recipe with elderflower liqueur but the floral flavor is faint.  We could not find fresh elderflowers to decorate the cake, so we used silk spring flowers with yellow centers instead to indicate the lemon flavor with this color. Lastly we topped our simple, rustic-style cake with a tiara to add some “Markle sparkle”.

Make a mini lemon elderflower wedding cake to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan. Best wishes to them and to all the other couples getting married today!

Recipe

(Adapted from People magazine)

For the lemon cake

  • 4 cups flour (all purpose)
  • 3 teapoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups sour cream, room temperature
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed (about 3 lemons)

Directions

Line two 6- and 8-inch round cake pans with waxed paper. Mist the bottom and sides with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy.

Gradually add the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add half of the sour cream. Continue to alternate the flour and sour cream mixture until well combined and the cake batter is smooth.

Mix in the lemon juice. Divide the batter into the prepared pans, filling them halfway. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Brush away any crumbs.

For the elderflower buttercream frosting

  • 8 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 (1 pound) boxes powdered sugar
  • ½ cup (+/-) elderflower liqueur

Directions

In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar.  Thin to a spreadable consistency with elderflower liqueur. Spread a little frosting onto a cake board to act as a “glue” for the bottom layer of the cake.

 

 For the lemon elderflower liquid

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • ¼ cup elderflower liqueur

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolved the sugar in lemon juice and elderflower liqueur. Stir well. Brush this liquid onto the cut layers of the cooled cakes before icing them with elderflower buttercream frosting.

Continue with each cake layer, brushing with lemon elderflower liquid and then frosting it with the elderflower buttercream. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate as desired. Top with a tiara and add spring flowers. Place on a cake pedestal. Serve and celebrate!

Notes

  • We used two 10-inch round pans for this recipe and sliced the layers in half. The People magazine recipe uses 6- and 8-inch rounds. For our final food photo above, the latter are cake dummies with the bottom 10-inch cake being the real one. Many couples use cake dummies to add height to their wedding cake, cut a real one for photos and serve sheet cakes from the back kitchen to save money.
  • Fruitcake is traditionally served at British weddings. This lemon elderflower cake is a contemporary confection honoring American bride Meghan Markle.
  • Search our blog for more royal-inspired recipes.

 

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