May 26, 2017

Chicken and Waffle Cupcake!

It's wedding week in the Chung household now and the family has all gathered to prepare for the upcoming Twin Sista wedding on Sunday. But as a special treat, my sista Melissa brought cupcakes from her favorite cupcake bakery in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Salted Cupcake has been on my radar for several years since sista raves about how delicious their little cakes are. The bakery takes requests for their special flavors of the day so after scouring their menu, I asked for chicken and waffles. Other sistas put in their requests too and they actually fulfilled all of our suggestions. We also ordered passion fruit cheesecakeanimal cookietiramisupuppy chow and salted caramel vanilla bean. Each cupcake is $3.50 but are cheaper per cupcake if 6 or more are ordered.
What makes these cupcakes unique are the toppings. The chicken and waffle cupcake came topped with an actual mini waffle and a piece of fried chicken and the animal cookie was topped with a frosted animal cracker.
The chicken and waffle cupcake was a nutmeg buttermilk cake topped with a cinnamon buttercream frosting and drizzled with maple syrup over the waffle. Surprisingly, there were actual bits of fried chicken baked inside the cake. The actual cake and frosting were just okay but when eaten separately, the waffle and fried chicken were so delicious. Combined all together in one bite, it was just so-so and the nutmeg cake was too overpowering to taste the other flavors.

I had a few bites of the puppy chow and salted caramel cupcakes and they were pretty tasty. Overall these were fun cupcakes and really great eye candy.

The Salted Cupcake
2481 32nd Street SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan

May 11, 2017

Lately From Baking

I've been a little quiet here on the baking front since my cake baking frenzy two months ago. But here are a few recipes I've tried out recently:

Fudgy Gluten-Free Cream Cheese Brownies
These brownies are super fudgy and rich so accompany them with a tall glass of milk. Corn starch, instead of all purpose flour, is used to make these gluten-free brownies. They taste just like gluten-filled ones and are a great substitute for gluten-free friends in your life.

Black Sesame Currant Scones
I've been wanting to bake more with black sesame and these scones were the perfect vehicle to bake with two unfamiliar ingredients for me: black sesame powder and dried currants. The scones weren't super sweet and were almost savory but pretty tasty.

Dark Chocolate Scone Loaf
Scone dough baked in loaf form is quite genius and also with the addition of marzipan makes this quite a sweet treat (unlike the black sesame scones). The marzipan cubes give the loaf a little chewy texture with a delicious pop of almond.

May 8, 2017

Cat Cafe

Houston opened its first cat cafe a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait to spend an afternoon hanging out with some kitties. Cat cafes started in Asia and are particularly popular in Japan.

What are cat cafes, you ask? They are coffee houses that allow you to get caffeinated while hanging out with cats. They haven't caught on here in the states because of regulations against animals in restaurants, but El Gato Coffee House has created a space that separates the cat cottage from the coffee house.
For $12 (lower rates for students and children), you get 50 minutes to spend time with 12 adoptable cats that come from the Houston Human Society. 
The cottage is a colorful, cat-centrically decorated space filled with cat bridges, cat trees and tunnels and even Cat Fancy magazines---basically cat heaven.
El Gato even hosts events like yoga, movie nights and craft hour all with the cats. 
Some of the cats were a little shy but I managed to make new friends.
Even Erin's baby daughter found a new furry friend.
El Gato Coffee House
The Heights
508 Pecore Street
Houston, Texas

April 29, 2017

Cupcake Afternoon

Since it was my friend's birthday the other day, I decided to use the occasion to try a cupcake bakery that has been on my radar for a while. I even tried to patronize the bakery last year only to get caught in a torrential rainstorm as soon as I parked my car to go to into the bakery. Needless to say, I never got out of my car and almost got stranded because of the rising water on the roads. Houston, I will not miss your crazy storms when I move!
Cake Swirl has actually moved locations from when I tried to visit the bakery last year. It relocated about 5 miles south of its original location from Old Town Spring and into the Houston city limits. They had about 9 flavors available and I (surprise) chose the banana pudding cupcake and got a German chocolate for my friend Rachel. Each cupcake is $3.25. 
Traditional banana pudding is vanilla custard topped with fresh bananas and Nilla wafers. This rendition of the popular southern dessert was a vanilla cake topped with vanilla frosting and filled with a layer of fresh bananas underneath the frosting. The cake actually tasted like a Nilla wafer and the bites with the bananas were delicious. Overall, it was an enjoyable afternoon treat. 

And even though it was a cloudy day with storms brewing, I was safe from the rain today while on my cupcake adventure. Phew! 

Cake Swirl
156 FM 1960
Houston, Texas

April 24, 2017

The Houston Bucket List Continues...

I've known since November that I'd be moving from Houston so there has been ample time to think through the things I want to see and eat before I depart from Houston in July. So here's what I've been crossing off my list since January.

I love crawfish but only really enjoy it when someone else does all the labor of de-shelling the little mudbugs. But to embrace crawfish season down here, I made sure to get my paws dirty at Crawfish & Noodles (although my friend Luis thinks I need to experience a proper crawfish boil too).

Apparently it's a thing in Texas to take portraits of children in a field of bluebonnets (the state flower). I just stopped to admire them one day on my way to go running but I did contemplate taking my fur baby for some portraits--only momentarily.

Fancy Dining:
I treated myself to a six course meal at the James Beard award winning chef, Justin Yu's, Oxheart restaurant. My friends and I ordered the garden and tasting menus so we could sample a little of each. All the courses were so delicious, creative and thrilling.

I suppose any meal out with friends is on my bucket list but there's something about a lazy weekend brunch that gets me extra excited about food---and it has nothing to do with morning cocktails. Buffet Mexican brunch at Xochi and my ugly delicious brunch from Common Bond (croque madame doesn't photograph well) were the perfect meals to accompany a morning with friends.

Biking Around the Bayou:
Renting bikes and riding around the Buffalo Bayou that runs through downtown was a fun way to see the city from a different perspective.

I like to joke that on a road trip through East Texas last year, the only things I would see in the roadside strip malls were signs for TACOS and DONUTS. With the many donut shops around, I only have eyes for Hugs & Donuts. Their fun and creative flavors are always so tasty.
And with donuts comes the other Texas donut shop staple: kolaches! And I couldn't leave without eating my favorite hybrid one,  the Indian flavored butter chicken kolache from the Pondicheri Bake Lab.

To be continued...

April 19, 2017

Weekend Adventures: San Antonio

With the few months I have left in Texas, I wanted to take a trip out to San Antonio to visit my friend Stacey before I didn't have the chance anymore to pop in my car and drive three hours west to see her. And this was a test run for road tripping with the cat. (I can report we both did well on our round trip car trip!).

This trip wasn't really to see the sights of San Antonio but rather to just hang out and have friend time. But with Stacey being a good friend, she made sure to take me to her new favorite cupcake place in town: Sweet Secrets Cake Shop.
There were about a dozen flavors available and all for low prices: $1.50-2.50. The cupcakes were frosted on the spot, so while it took a bit of time to get all of our cupcakes prepared, I didn't mind knowing the frosting would be fresh. I opted for a black forest cupcake while Stacey and friends ordered many more, which included carrot, strawberry shortcake, German chocolate and coconut.
These were super fluffy cupcakes; however, while the sponge had a nice spring, they were a tad dry. But the light, not too sweet frosting helped mask that flaw, which made the cupcakes a delightful afternoon treat.
And Stacey took me up to the historic town of Gruene so I could see a little bit of real Texas before my exodus from the state. We saw the oldest Texas Dance Hall , saw a slew of cowboy hats and did a little bit of antiquing.

Sweet Secrets Cake Shop
Medical Center
7423 Callaghan Road
San Antonio, Texas

April 7, 2017

Hearty Breakfast

Last summer, my sista Melissa introduced me to a healthy, grain-free breakfast bowl that even her one year old daughter loved to eat!

Her version of the breakfast bowl is with butternut squash but since I'm not the biggest fan on butternut squash, I decided to substitute in sweet potato.
The author of the original recipe recommends this as a grain-free alternative to oatmeal. Since I like to say I'm on the bridesmaid diet these days, I am open to many grain-free meals---and this is a delicious one!

This can be a quick breakfast too if you roast your sweet potatoes ahead of time and all that's needed is a quick reheat before assembling the bowls.
I like to keep it simple with almond butter, a drizzle of honey and bananas but shredded coconut, cinnamon, nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds are all great toppings too.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl adapted from my longevity kitchen, serves one
1 cubed, roasted large sweet potato (here's how to roast them)
1/2 banana, sliced
1-2 tsp almond butter
drizzle honey or maple syrup
optional: shredded coconut, dash of cinnamon, slivered almonds or other nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, etc.
1. Reheat sweet potato in microwave or on stovetop in a small saucepan until warmed. Assemble bowl by first adding in sweet potato then topping with sliced banana, almond butter and honey.
2. Enjoy!