June 23, 2018

Healthy Party Dip

Twice in the past month I have found myself looking for dip recipes to bring to housewarming parties. First I turned to cilantro mousse, which has always been a favorite in my book. But the other day, I opted for a healthier dip and remembered an eggplant dip that I once made many years ago.
It has minimal ingredients, most of which are vegetables! But I had trouble both times I made this when it came to peeling the skin off the roasted eggplant. So my solution: pulverize the eggplant and its skin in my food pro, which makes this recipe even easier to make.

It's savory yet sweet from the caramelized onions and you won't feel too guilty indulging on this tasty, healthy dip.
Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Dip adapted from the Minimalist Baker
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 cups onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
Carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, pita chips/bread for serving
1. Sprinkle salt onto both sides of each eggplant round and then place into a colander; let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse eggplant with water and dry thoroughly. Preheat oven to high broil.
2. Place eggplant onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes and flip half way through. Let eggplant brown and soften. Once removed from oven, let cool
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat and heat 1-2 tbs olive oil. Add onions and cook until caramelized, about 30-50 minutes. Stir occasionally and lower heat if onions brown too quickly. Add the garlic in the last couple minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding balsamic vinegar to the pan and scrape up any bits at the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place cooled eggplant into food processor. Place Greek yogurt into food processor and pulse until a creamy dip forms.
5. Remove eggplant mix from food processor into a bowl and fold in caramelized onions. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
6. Serve with your favorite crudité, pita or tortilla chips and enjoy!

June 19, 2018

Cold Korean Soup

With the hot weather and summer officially beginning soon, I've been turning to summertime, basically no-cook meals in my kitchen. This equates to lots of  Korean sushi rolls, which were very present during my childhood summers. Usually accompanied with the sushi rolls was an ice cold Korean soup that grandma always made.

To be honest, I wasn't totally a fan of the soup for many years. It's a mix of ice water, vinegar and soy sauce, topped with seaweed and cucumbers. It's super tangy and I'd say an acquired taste but after all these years, now I love it. Especially since it reminds me of grandma.
So if you're looking for a quick-to-make, cold soup for a hot, summer day, try making this tangy, Korean soup.
Chilled Korean Cucumber Soup (오이 냉국) adapted from Korean Bapsang
4 cups water
1 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs rice vinegar (or this vinegar that my grandma would use)

1 small cucumber, julienned
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 nori sheet, cut into thin strips
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
ice cubes
1. Mix the water, soy sauce and rice vinegar in a large bowl. Then top with sliced cucumber, green onion, nori and sesame seeds. Add in ice cubes.
2. Enjoy!

June 6, 2018

One for You, One for Me

With a friend's birthday last week, I decided the quickest way to get a treat to him was to grab a cupcake at a local bakery (since I hadn't planned on baking anything). I used this opportunity to try a cupcake bakery I hadn't been to yet: Kansas City Cupcake Co. It seemed a little risky since I couldn't vouch for the cupcake but I just went for it.
The bakery has classic flavors as well as weekly specials. I decided to get a flavor-packed one for the friend: caramel hot chocolate which was even topped with marshmallows. I opted for a tamer cupcake: cookies n' creme. Each cupcake is $2.49.
I got super excited when I first felt how springy the cupcake was through the wrapper squish test. The texture was moist and fluffy but it burst with too much sweetness. I couldn't pinpoint the culprit until I sampled the cake on its own. It had an artificial sweet flavor and when it was combined with the frosting and filling, it was too sweet for me to handle. But I actually liked the not-too-sweet frosting with its oreo cookie flavor.

The friend reported back that he liked his birthday treat, especially the frosting. I was just thrilled the bakery offered an option for a birthday candle, which was the first time in my 7 years of cupcaking that this has ever happened.

Kansas City Cupcake Co.
5038 Lamar Avenus
Mission, Kansas

May 29, 2018

Just Around the Corner

Did you know that I live super close to a bakery/cafe that serves cupcakes? This may be the first time I've been in such close proximity to cupcakes (minus the summer I lived close to Sugar Bliss in Chicago). But the strange thing is, I haven't tried the cupcakes until a few days ago. In lieu of flowers, I decided to get a colleague a celebratory cupcake for a recent performance. And since Cafe Europa was just a quick walk from my apartment, I thought it was the perfect time to finally try their baked goods.
They had about six flavors available at $3 for each giant cupcake. I settled on a chocolate for the colleague and a carrot for me. 
I so wanted this to be a great cupcake but sadly, it was not. Too dry until I got to the middle of the cake and the frosting also fell victim to dryness. Plus they were refrigerated and having them sit out at room temperature could not revive them to a decent texture. 

I have had lunch at Cafe Europa so I'll gladly patronize again for a meal but just not for any cupcakes. 

Cafe Europa
Union Hill
2976 Gillham Road
Kansas City, Missouri

May 26, 2018

Bulgogi Bao Buns

I'm now the proud owner of a bamboo steam basket. After my dumpling making last month, I felt the urge to make all sorts of dim sum and ordered accessories for future projects:  the basket as well as a cute rolling pin.
My first project with the steam basket was making bao buns. I love how pillowy and soft bao buns are and how they serve as a perfect vessel for yummy fillings. I decided to make them Korean by using bulgogi and ssamjang (spicy sauce). And since baos are served with pickles, I made a quick cucumber pickle to add a pop of brightness to the buns.
It does take some time and patience since bao buns are a yeasted dough. But once they've risen and have been rolled out and formed, they cook in no time in the steam basket.
Bulgogi Bao Buns

May 14, 2018

The Less Stinky Caesar Dressing

By the time warmer weather comes around, I start jumping on the salad train. One of my favorite dressing has been this caesar dressing. However, the only caveat is that I can't really hang out with people afterwards because of stinky raw garlic burps (sorry, tmi). After discussing this with my sista Melissa, she steered me towards finding a roasted garlic caesar dressing.
I love this new recipe since it doesn't require too many ingredients and it's pretty simple to make once you roast a head of garlic. While you may still get some garlicky burps, they wont be nearly as potent as the raw garlic ones. Yum, can't wait to make this all summer long!
The Recipe: Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing from A Cup of Jo. This pairs great with kale (baby or lacinato) and topped with panko crumbs for a lighter salad.

May 10, 2018

Little Mochi Cakes

About a month ago when I popped into my local coffee shop to get a post-vacation breakfast, my eye caught this article about brown butter mochi and canelés in the New York Times Magazine. I was intrigued, mostly by the fact that the recipe was described as "easy and forgiving" but also I got super excited about a new mochi recipe entering my baking repertoire.
Buttery, nutty and chewy--these little cakes are tasty and are also a beautiful caramel color. I first made them in my regular-sized muffin tin but thought they'd be easier to share if I baked them in my mini muffin tin. And in the end, I preferred them in mini form--they were cuter and easier to eat.
Brown Butter Mochi adapted from the NY Times Magazine
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter and more for greasing the tins
1 can (13.66 oz) full fat coconut milk
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 cups (16 oz) dark brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups (21 oz) glutinous rice flour (Mochiko or whatever brand you can find)
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini muffin tins with butter. In a medium saucepan, heat stick of butter over medium heat. Let it melt, stir and allow it foam until it turns golden brown and starts to smell nutty, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in coconut milk, evaporated milk and brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add in the eggs and vanilla and stir until smooth.
3. In a large bowl, add the glutinous rice flour, baking powder and salt and mix together. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mix and stir until smooth.
4. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, fill the mini muffin tin until each well is filled just under the brim. Bake for 22-25 minutes if using a dark metal tin (add 5 minutes more if not). When they are done, the tops should be tan in color and a toothpick should come out mostly clean.
5. Remove from oven and cool on a drying rack. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.
6. Enjoy!