Choco-flan

Chocoflan

September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

At a cake club meeting that Islander had attended, one of the members brought in a curious cake called choco-flan. It was a doubly delicious dessert of chocolate and custard. It is also popular among her Mexican friends whose country is known for xocolatl y flan. Islander added Texas’ state nut, pecans, to decorate the top of the cake for a Tex-Mex taste. Thanks to her Mexican friends for introducing this recipe to us. In their honor, and as an homage to all our Hispanic friends, we made this cake in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Muchas gracias, amigas.

Recipe

Inspired by nuestras amigas en San Antonio, Tejas

For the cake

  • 1 bottle or can of dulce de leche or cajeta (caramel), divided use
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (may use devil’s food, triple chocolate fudge or other favorite chocolate cake mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 eggs

For the flan

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vainilla (vanilla)

Directions

Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Then pour about a cup of caramel to coat the sides and bottom. Set aside. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box by combining the cake mix with water, oil and eggs and blending into a smooth batter. Pour the cake batter over the caramel. Set aside.

Choco-flan

Make the flan by mixing the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla.

Choco-flan

Pour the flan mix over the cake. It will sink to the bottom. Place the bundt pan in a larger pan. Pour boiling hot water in the larger pan up to the middle of the sides of the bundt pan to make a “water bath”. Mist a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the bundt pan with the sprayed side down (this will prevent the risen cake from sticking to the top of the foil). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flan to chill and solidify.

Choco-flan

Take out from the refrigerator and carefully invert on a plate. Drizzle more caramel on top of the choco-flan and let it drip down the middle hole and sides. Toast whole pieces of pecans by heating the nuts in a small skillet, being careful not to burn. Cool the nuts then place them decoratively on top of the choco-flan. Refrigerate. Slice and serve.

Choco-flan

Notes

Apple Chicken Patties

Apple Chicken Patties

September: National Chicken Month

September-November: National Apple Months

Have a hearty breakfast (or snack) before going to school (or work) by cooking up some apple chicken patties. These tasty treats can be made the night before then heated up in the microwave for a quick bite before heading out for another busy day.

The combination of sweet apples and ground chicken are complemented with the herbs and spices for a doubly delicious dish for National Chicken and National Apple months.

Recipe

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 large apple (sweet or tart)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • cooking oil

Directions

Peel, core and finely dice the apple. Mix in a large bowl with the ground chicken. Mince the garlic and add to the ground chicken mixture.

Apple Chicken Patties

Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Add the dried herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary and marjoram) and mix well. Shape into 2-inch patties. Place on waxed or parchment paper on a flat tray. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to firm up the patty mixture.

Apple Chicken Patties

Heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet. Remove the patties from the refrigerator and fry on one side until brown. Add a little more oil, if necessary, flip and brown the other side, making sure the patties are cooked through. Transfer the patties on paper towels to absorb excess grease. Yield: Approximately one dozen.

Apple Chicken Patties

Notes

  • Lean ground meat makes the patties a little dry. Mixing ground chicken with a little ground pork may make them more moist.
  • Search our blog for more recipes containing apples and chicken in observance of National Apple and Chicken months.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

September-November: National Apple Months

Apple pie is a popular apple dish to make during the National Apple Months from September to November. Instead of a sweet apple pie, try a savory one instead: apple cheddar bacon mini pies. They are like a small yet hearty quiche full of flavor from apples and applewood smoked bacon.

Islander brought this dish instead of a dessert to the culinary book club meeting at the local library this month, following the apple ingredient theme. Most members brought the typical, sweet apple dishes so they very much welcomed Islander’s contribution to balance out the buffet.

Try something different than the traditional apple pie and make a savory apple cheddar bacon mini pie during National Apple Months.

Recipe

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1 pound) applewood-smoked or regular bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced (equivalent to one cup)
  • ½ cup sweet or white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Bisquick mix
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Cook the bacon (fry or bake), drain the grease, let cool and crumble into pieces. Peel and dice the apple.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Chop the onions. Place in a large bowl with the cheddar cheese. Chop the sage and add to the bowl. Sprinkle the salt and mix well.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

In a separate bowl, stir the Bisquick mix with milk. Beat the eggs into the Bisquick mix until the batter is smooth. Mist a standard-size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Place a scant tablespoon of the batter into each of the 12-15 compartments. Divide the apple-cheddar-bacon mixture and scoop into each compartment (about ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons). Top with remaining batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Apple Cheddar Bacon Mini Pies

Notes

  • As a shortcut, use two packages (3 ounces each) of pre-cooked real bacon bits and pieces.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing apples as an ingredient.

Chicken Chop Suey

Chicken Chop Suey

August 29: Chop Suey Day

When Islander was a baby, she and her Mommy and Daddy lived temporarily in a tiny apartment above a strip mall in Aiea, Oahu, Hawaii, while waiting to move into a military base family housing unit in Pearl Harbor. Their apartment was above Waimalu Chop Suey House.

Decades later this iconic Chinese restaurant still remains in its busy location. But its crispy gau gee (dumpling) is more famous than its namesake chop suey. Whenever we go back to visit Islander’s family on Oahu, Waimalu Chop Suey is one of the places where we like to eat—for both nostalgia and the food.

Chop suey, which translates to “mixed vegetables” or “assorted pieces”, has as many origin stories as recipe versions. But the common ingredients include mung bean sprouts and a soy sauce-based gravy. Meat and eggs can be added in this easy vegetable stir-fry dish, if available and if desired. Chop suey can be eaten with rice or noodles for a simple, savory and satisfying meal.

Check out our chicken chop suey recipe version below for Chop Suey Day!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh grated
  • ½ cup onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated or julienned
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. In a medium bowl, make the marinade for the chicken by mixing together two tablespoons of soy sauce with the sugar, garlic and ginger. Toss the chicken in this marinade, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare the other vegetables (or use a chop suey vegetable mix—canned or bagged—see Notes).

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In a large wok or skillet, heat a little oil. Sauté the marinated chicken pieces until brown and the liquid has been reduced. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the same skillet, add a little more oil. Sauté the onions until soft. Add the carrot, celery, bean sprouts and cabbage.

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Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and pour the chicken stock. Return the chicken to the pan and mix well. In a small cup, mix the remaining two tablespoons of soy sauce with cornstarch to make a slurry. Stir into the wok/skillet until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dish out onto a platter.

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Notes

  • Serve chicken chop suey hot with rice or over noodles. Or sprinkle won ton strips over it as a garnish and serve as a side dish.
  • Chop suey vegetables are available in a can (La Choy brand)! Take a cooking shortcut with a less tinny taste and use fresh mixed vegetables in a bag (Taro Brand).
  • Watch a YouTube video of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, Flower Drum Song, entitled “Chop Suey”.

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

bananapancakes

August 27: National Banana Lovers Day

Pancakes are among our favorite breakfast/brunch foods to have on Saturday mornings when we have more time to relax instead of rush out the door to beat the traffic to work. We have cooked traditional buttermilk pancakes and sometimes others made with blueberries and poi before. But we love the ones made with mashed bananas the best because the pancakes are so moist and naturally sweet (we omit the sugar in the recipe). Banana pancakes are perfect for breakfast, brunch and especially National Banana Lovers Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas, ripe and mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated white (we omitted this)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups buttermilk (see Notes)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • oil for frying

Directions

Peel and mash the bananas. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar (if using) and baking soda. Add the walnuts (if using). Beat in the eggs.

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Pour in the buttermilk and melted butter. Add the mashed bananas. Mix well until moistened. Grease a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour some of the pancake batter. Wait until it slowly bubbles and browns on the bottom before flipping it over to finish cooking. Transfer to a plate, keep warm and finish cooking the rest of the pancakes. Serve in a stack with a pat of butter, syrup and slices of fresh banana, if desired.

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Notes

  • Buttermilk can be made at home! Instead of the packaged product, simply mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice to 1 cup milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Mix well before using in the recipe.
  • Banana pancakes also may be enjoyed on September 26, which is National Pancake Day in the United States, and on Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday, a movable feast day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
  • We prepare these pancakes ahead of time and refrigerate them when we expect to have overnight guests. Banana pancakes are still moist and flavorful to heat up for breakfast the next morning, which is a time-saver!
  • Love bananas like we do? Look for other banana recipes by searching our blog.

Rosé Wine and Chocolate Cake

(a.k.a. Brangelina-Inspired

Naked Wedding Cake)

brangelinacake

August 23: Islander’s Birthday, Brangelina’s Wedding (2014), Feast Day of St. Rose of Lima

Happy anniversary to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who were married on Islander’s birthday! To celebrate, we were inspired to bake a naked-style natal cake like the one that their son, Pax, who was only 10 years old at the time, lovingly made for their wedding. It appears that the alternating cake layers were white or light and chocolate with some pink rosettes and green leaf frosting decorations attached around the sides.

Our top tier mini version is simple yet sweetly symbolic. The chocolate layer is a basic recipe that a child can make (with adult supervision), like Pax might have done for his parents. The vanilla layer is easily made with a boxed cake mix enhanced with rosé wine—specifically the award-winning wine from the Jolie-Pitts’ own home and Provence estate, Chateau Miraval, in France, where their intimate, private wedding ceremony took place amongst their children/family and a few close friends. We topped our naked cake with a statement pink silk rose, which is in homage to the saint of the day, St. Rose of Lima, as well as an indication of the rose pink flavoring in the cake. And the “Mr. & Mrs.” cake topper is in reference to the movie, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, where Brangelina’s infamous love story began.

Celebrate a birthday or wedding like a movie star with this special rosé wine and chocolate naked cake. And have a happy feast day in honor or St. Rose of Lima!

Recipe

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

For the rosé wine cake

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • ½ cup rosé wine
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon strawberry or raspberry extract [optional]
  • ½ teaspoon orange extract [optional]
  • ½ teaspoon rose water (or ¼ teaspoon rose extract) [optional]
  • 5 drops red liquid food coloring [optional]

Directions

In a large bowl, pour the wine over the cake mix. Stir in the water and vegetable oil. Add the egg whites and pinch of salt.

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Mix in the extracts/flavoring and food coloring, if using. Blend well. Divide batter into two 8-inch round pans that have been lined with waxed paper and greased on the bottom and sides. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

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Bonus Recipe: Easy Chocolate Cake

(Adapted from Kidspot) 

  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cocoa. Add the milk and vanilla.

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Stir in the melted butter and eggs and mix until smooth. Pour into two greased 8-inch round pans. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

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For the rosé wine frosting

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup rosé wine

Directions

In large bowl, beat the butter with the salt until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, alternating with a little wine, until well blended.

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Directions to assemble the naked cake

Slice each cake into two layers, leveling the top. Make sure the layers are the same thickness. Brush away any crumbs before assembling the cake. Smear a little frosting on the cake board to act as an adhesive to the bottom layer of the cake.

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Position a chocolate cake layer on the bottom. Spread some frosting on top, being careful not to pick up crumbs. Position the rosé cake layer on top and press down on the filling. Spread more frosting on top.

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Position another chocolate cake layer on top and press down on the filling. Repeat with the frosting and top with the bottom end up of the rosé cake layer.

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Spread the remaining frosting on top (or use a star tip to cover and decorate all around the top of the cake). Chill to let the frosting set. Bring to room temperature for serving. Decorate with a silk rose and leaves and a cake topper as desired. When cut, the cake has a surprising visual beauty of Neapolitan colors.

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Notes

  • “Naked” cakes are simple sweets that have the “bare” minimum frosting between “exposed” layers of cake, which are a good option for movie stars who have to maintain their famous figures and cannot indulge in rich desserts too often.
  • Our German chocolate cake was the first attempt at a “naked cake” with the exposed layers of German chocolate cake sandwiched between sweet coconut-pecan frosting. We hope to make more naked cakes for our blog in the future.
  • We used a French brand of butter because Brangelina got married in France.
  • Any rosé wine may be used instead of the more pricey Miraval brand in this recipe.  The tasting notes in the latter are described as having a delicate berry and citrus aroma with a floral touch. So we added berry and citrus flavorings and rose water to the white cake batter.
  • The alcohol cooks off in the cake when it is baked, so it is safe to serve to children.
  • The pinch of salt in the rosé wine cake batter and frosting cuts a bit of sweetness in the dessert. “Salt” is the title of one of Angelina Jolie’s movies.
  • We used a wire cake leveler to cut the layers of our cake, which is safer than a knife blade when decorating with children.
  • The two cake layers have different densities. The rosé wine cake layer is lighter and fluffier than the chocolate cake layer. If stacking more layers for wedding cake tiers, use a pound cake recipe for a more stable structure.

Olympic Mini Donut Rings

Olympic Donut Rings

Aug. 5-21, 2016: Summer Olympic Games

Highlander used to be a member of the swim and water polo teams in high school and college. So his favorite Summer Olympic events to watch are any aquatics competitions (although he likes watching the other sports, too). Islander isn’t so keen on athletics but she enjoys the excuse to make theme food for event watch parties, especially the Olympic opening ceremonies!

For the last Winter Olympics, she made medal cookies. The Olympic mini donut rings are also appropriate for this season’s games. It is sweetly symbolic, representing the colors used in many nations’ flags.

Add some colorful confections to the table for an Olympic watch party and make these delicious donut rings. They are fun and festive to gobble up during the games!

Recipe

(Adapted from Wilton)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • Wilton candy melts—blue, black, red, yellow and green
  • vegetable shortening (optional)

Directions

Mist the mini donut pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and nutmeg.

Olympic Donut Rings

Stir in the buttermilk and beat in the egg. Mix in the melted butter and blend until the batter is smooth. Put a tablespoon of the batter into each ring in the mini donut pan (do not fill more than halfway). Tap the bottom of the pan to level the batter.

Olympic Donut Rings

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for only 6-7 minutes (the donuts will puff up). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Melt the Candy Melts over a double boiler or microwave, adding a little bit of vegetable shortening to thin it out, if necessary. Use one color at a time (we started with blue, then black, red, yellow then green).

Olympic Donut Rings

Dip one side of the donut in each color of the Candy Melts. Twist and turn the donut while dipping it, letting the excess color drip back into the bowl. Place the donut on a plate or tray. Let the coating cool and harden. Display the donut rings in rows of the same colors or arrange a complete set of Olympic colors together on one plate.

Olympic Donut Rings

Notes