September 28, 2016

Baby, So I Can Feed You Cookies

Now I can report that Labor Inducing Cookies did not work as we had hoped. Regardless of the cookie's effectiveness, Erin gave birth to a cute bundle of joy. Welcome, Baby Camilla!

And so to help Erin ease into motherhood, I baked some Lactation Cookies
The key ingredient to help any new mama produce milk is rolled oats. And what better way to consume oats than inside a delicious cookie--and they help fuel a nursing mom.
I followed the advice of the recipe and baked a few and froze the rest into dough balls to be baked whenever Erin has a craving for the cookies. This ensures a whole baked batch doesn't dry out and they stay fresh and delicious. 
Of course I had a sample of the cookie. They're basically super tasty oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. So after baking Labor Inducing Cookies, don't take off those oven mitts yet---whip up a batch of these lactation cookies too!

The Recipe: How Sweet Eats's Lactation Cookies. It calls for lots of organic ingredients but if you don't have them, you can substitute non-organic variations. And I found brewer's yeast in my local grocery store's bulk section.

September 22, 2016

The Summer of Ice Cream

Since today marks the first day of autumn, it's made me reflect on all the ice cream I've consumed over the summer. Looking back on the last season, I've eaten more ice cream/frozen goodies than I think I have in a long time. It was a nice departure from the ubiquitous cupcakes in my life and I officially declare 2016: The Summer of Ice Cream.

The Childhood Favorite: I'll always have a soft-spot for Baskin Robbins's Rainbow Sherbet.

Asian-Style: Green tea and red bean ice cream served with Korean-style doughnuts compliments of one of my favorite Korean restaurants, Ttowa.

Ice Cream with the Nieces: Kids + ice cream= a natural pairing 

The Prettiest Gelato: The gourmet, artisanal gelato that comes in flower form just opened its doors in Houston---love you already, Amorino.

The Neighborhood Ice Cream Shop: Just a short drive from my apartment is a cute ice cream shop (also next door to my new favorite doughnut shop) that serves unique flavors. And on weekends, you can go next door to Hugs And Donuts and grab a donut to add to a shake.

September 20, 2016

Baby, Please Come Out Cookies

My friend Erin is at the end of her pregnancy, and although it's been a pretty smooth one, she's ready for baby to make her appearance into the world.

So as a way to coax her out of the womb, I was forwarded a recipe for Labor Inducing Cookies. The post for the cookies states that ginger and spicy foods are ways to induce labor. One woman supposedly went into labor after eating the Extra-Spicy Gingersnaps (the link to that story is broken). Well, I'll do anything to help out a friend, especially if it involves baking.
Maybe we were a little premature with the cookies (I baked them almost a week before baby's due date) and also maybe baby isn't ready to come out (I also baked them one day after her due date) because Erin is still with child and well fed with cookies.

Regardless of the cookie's lack of magical labor inducing powers, these are pretty delicious cookies. Tastes like Christmas---just a little spicier. I couldn't stop eating them and I joked that I was also going to go in labor (with a food baby).
The Recipe: Gale Gand's Extra-Spicy Gingersnaps---to be baked when you want to see if they'll help a pregnant friend go into labor or when you're in the mood for a spicy baked good.

September 11, 2016

Basil x 2

I moved into new dwellings back in June but after taking a 5 week trip to Chicago in the middle of summer, I'm finally feeling like I'm settling down in my new digs. To spruce up the place, I decided to welcome a basil plant into my home (my first plant, ever).
The Mr. Basil plant was courtesy of Trader Joe's and he had such large leaves that provided some delicious meals, including a new summer favorite: Smitten Kitchen's One Pan Farro with Tomatoes.
A week after Mr. Basil's arrival, I adopted a young, feline friend who I named Basil (but the naming was completely unrelated to the Mr. Basil plant).
And now three weeks later, due to lacking a green thumb, I only have Basil Cat as a roomie. Maybe there will be another Mr. Basil plant but for now, it's just Basil and me.

August 25, 2016

Rainy Day Project

When I say it's been rainy here in Houston, I don't know how to emphasize how rainy it has been. But alas, it's Hurricane Season. And since I'm still on a summer vacay for a few weeks, I decided now was the best time to dive head first into making homemade babka--and it made for the perfect rainy day project.

After having probably the best babka ever from Russ and Daughters in NYC in June, I wanted to attempt to bake some.

The Goal: make a moist, gooey, chocolatey yeasted bread also known as babka, ala Russ and Daughters.
Babka: I was first introduced to babka from afar while watching Seinfeld almost two decades ago. Elaine and Jerry had their hopes set on getting a chocolate babka for a dinner party and spent most of the episode in the bakery--which also featured the black and white cookie. Fast forward to last year when I finally tried my first babka at Trader Joe's when they were handing out free samples (which is delicious, btw).
Babka makes for the perfect rainy day(s) project because you have to wait for rising times and the filling and the topping need to be made in addition to the dough. But with a little patience and maybe a good show to binge on while waiting during the rising times, the babka comes together beautifully. 

The Recipe: I used this Chocolate Babka recipe from Melissa Clark in the NY Times. The accompanying video was also super helpful (especially with the braiding) and pretty entertaining (I want to be her new bff). Also, this recipe makes 2 loaves--one or both can be freezed for later consumption. 
Number of rising periods: 3 and they range from 1 hour to overnight. There is also a 10 minute waiting period for the dough to chill in the freezer after rolling the filled dough.
Room Temperature Ingredients: 4 eggs and 10 tbs butter for the dough and another stick of butter for the chocolate filling. Prep ahead!

Components That Can Be Made Ahead: the filling and the streusel topping can be made at least 3 days in advance.

Tips: Spread a thick layer of filling onto the dough to achieve ooey gooey layers.
The Results: a moist, fudgy, chocolatey babka with a hint of citrus. I'd say my first attempt was a success although not quite at Russ & Daughters level. Thanks, Melissa Clark!

August 22, 2016

Back At Home

I've been back in super rainy Texas for a little more than a week, and I went a whole week without eating out and cooked for myself. It felt great! But in that time of getting back into Texas life, I almost forgot to write about two cupcakes I had in Chicago before my departure.

Chicago Cupcake has been on my radar ever since my sestra Melissa guest blogged about it four years ago. After our excursion to Small Cheval, we decided to stop by their store front in Wicker Park. And little did we know, Chicago Cupcake only makes cheesecake cupcakes (I find the name a little deceiving). We opted to try two flavors: cookie dough and s'mores. Each cupcake is $4.
Both cheesecake cupcakes were pretty generic--unoffensive but also nothing special.
The second cupcake stop was when I spotted a cupcake stand at my hometown's Sunday morning Farmers Market. I was pretty surprised when I saw a sign for Callie's Cupcakery.

The cupcakery started after a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. A love of baking with life's new challenges created the in-home cupcakery, which is both gluten and nut free.

The cake was dry, which made it seem more like a muffin than a cupcake. The non-gluten flours (which included arrowroot and tapioca flour) made for an odd aftertaste, which was reminiscent of Asian rice cakes. It was pretty unappetizing but on a positive note, the fruit flavor wasn't artificial tasting and not too tart. Each cupcake is $3.
Twin Sista said she recently tried a gluten-free cupcake from Sprinkles and sang its many praises. So next time I feel up for a gluten-free cupcake (not sure that'll happen anytime soon), I'll try to head over to Sprinkles.

Even though these two cupcake adventures were pretty unmemorable, I had a fun month in Chicago on my annual summer trip. Until next time...

Chicago Cupcake
Wicker Park
1415 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, Illinois

Callie's Cupcakery
Buffalo Grove Farmers Market

August 15, 2016

Cupcakes for Breakfast

Cupcakes, for breakfast? Well at Southport Grocery and Cafe, it's a real thing. They offer their gluten-free vanilla cupcake batter in pancake form, topped with vanilla butter and maple syrup.
The pancake sans syrup was sweet enough on its own. It was fluffy, reminiscent of the funfetti cake and totally works in pancake form. And the best part was that they offer a solo pancake, which allowed sistas and me to sample other goodies from the breakfast menu.
The cafe also offers regular cupcakes, which have been on my radar ever since the inception of the blog. They only have three flavors: chocolate, vanilla or red velvet. Cupcakes range from $3-3.25.

We settled on a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. The cupcake itself was a little dry, mediocre and unmemorable. I definitely preferred the pancake version over the actual cupcake. Maybe I can do some experimenting at home with the next batch of cupcakes I make---cupcake waffles anyone?
Southport Grocery & Cafe
3552 North Southport Avenue
Chicago, Ilinois