February 24, 2017

Hummus With All The Toppings

Twin Sista recently made the most delicious homemade hummus for Super Bowl Sunday along with fancy toppers. I have very rarely had homemade hummus and never thought much of it since I am a loyal fan of Sabra roasted garlic hummus and Trader Joe's edamame hummus. O.M.G. I'm forever a convert of homemade hummus after that experience AND I can also eat it as a complete, scrumptious meal.
Twin Sista educated me on zhoug, which is basically a spicy pesto and a super tasty topper for hummus. And did you know that if you boil overnight soaked chickpeas in baking soda, they become super soft? I have a vague memory of trying to make hummus in my tiny mini chopper once and it was thick and crunchy and nasty. (Yay, I finally have a grown up food pro now!).
So in addition to the zhoug pesto topping, spiced ground lamb or beef elevate the once ordinary hummus to epic legendary food status. And since I'm on the bridesmaid diet, this hummus bowl can be eaten merely with a spoon and no pita. Or veggies if you are inclined to dip.
The recipe for hummus, zhoug and the meat topping all comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks: Molly on the Range. Molly suggests additional toppers like pomegranate seeds and pine nuts but I like it plain or just with zhoug and the meat.

Plan Ahead Timings:
  • Soak dried beans overnight in a pot with water that covers the beans about an inch above them. 
  • Once beans are soaked, allow another 2 hours to boil and simmer. Then you can commence hummus assembly 

Hummus with All the Toppings adapted from Molly on the Range
Zhoug (the zhoug recipe is underneath the risotto recipe)
2 tbs canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb ground lamb or beef
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2.5 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
black pepper

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent. Then add in lamb or beef and add in Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, cumin, allspice and black pepper. Break up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until it is no longer pink.  
2. In a bowl, add in hummus. Then top with zhoug and meat topping. Serve with carrots, celery or pita. 
*drizzle olive oil on top of hummus to prevent it from drying out when storing in refrigerator*

February 20, 2017

Field Trip Cupcake

I had to make a last minute day trip to the Southeast side of Houston last week and ended up having a couple hours to kill in between some performances. With the extra time, I decided to get my second cupcake of the week out in the suburb of League City.
I was a little skeptical since Craved Creations has only one review on Yelp. I was somewhat relieved to see that I wasn't the only customer there on a Friday morning. There was a variety of flavors available ranging from classic to fruity. I opted for a confetti cupcake, which was $3.
To be honest, I thought I would write this off as a nice-effort-but-no-thanks type of cupcake but I was so pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite. It was what you can imagine a gourmet Funfetti cake to taste like: a little less artificial tasting and filled with that vanilla flavor that transports you back to childhood birthday parties. I was then reminded of how subpar my sprinkles Sprinkles cupcake was a couple months ago (step it up, Sprinkles). The only downfall: too much frosting which made it a tad too sweet but this was easily remedied by scraping off about half of the giant mound of frosting atop the cake.

Well done, Craved Creations. And I hope many more positive reviews flood their Yelp because it is well deserved!

Craved Creations
812 East Main Street
League City, Texas

February 19, 2017

All The Desserts

Back in September, I was given a gift card to a local bakery, which is located just east of downtown Houston, an area I don't usually frequent. Well, it took me 4+ months to get my butt over there and I'm so glad I did!
Tout Suite is the sister bakery to SWEET, which is bakery that I visited five years ago for a cupcake on my Houston Cupcake Hunting. (I was pretty unenthusiastic about that cupcake experience). 

On my visit to Tout Suite, I decided to get an assortment of desserts to share with friends: a mango passion fruit tart, a hazelnut torte, a cronut (i was curious) and a tiramisu cupcake (just for me). There were 9 cupcake flavors available (even gluten-free ones) and each is $3.25. 

The tart and the torte were certainly eye catchers and they were just as delicious as they looked. The cinnamon sugar cronut was pretty much a churro in donut form. I probably should eat the real thing next time I'm in NYC. 
As for the cupcake, I was pleasantly surprised upon my first bite. It was so flavorful without being too sweet. All the flavors of the tiramisu cake shined through and worked well together. It had a moist, fluffy cake that was topped with a fluffy, light frosting. It was so good! Best cupcake in a long time! 

Tout Suite
2001 Commerce Street
Houston, Texas

February 6, 2017

Kolaches at Home

One of the things I'll miss most when I leave Houston is kolaches. The kolache: a filled pastry with a buttery dough and savory or sweet fillings that can be found across Texas doughnut shops. (It's basically a glorified dinner roll. The best kind is the sausage/jalapeno/cheese variety). Here's a blast from the past of my first encounter with the little bundle of goodness.
I decided with a few days off from work, I would embark on trying to make kolaches in my kitchen, in preparation for my move to KC.
Also, I did some research on a poppyseed kolache at Olde Towne Kolache Bakery last weekend. Poppyseed kolaches are the quintessential Czech kolache flavor. Let's just say that I will not be using the bag of poppyseed I bought in preparation to make that flavor. No, just no.
So after nixing the poppyseed flavor, I decided to make my classic favorite (sausage/cheese/jalapeno) as well as an Asian inspired flavor--black sesame (Thanks, Twin + Erin for the suggestion) and a jam filled one.
As with any yeasted dough recipe, it's almost an all day project, waiting for dough to rise a couple times. Regardless of the wait times, it really was a delicious result! I can't wait to recreate kolaches for all the non-Texans in my life after I leave the Lone Star State!

And check out the video from Cook's Country to get a visual for the kolache making process.

Kolaches adapted from Cook's Country, Food 52 and Epicurious

1 cup milk
10 tbs melted butter
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
3.5 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 (2 1/4 tsp) package of rapid rise yeast
1.5 tsp salt

3 cups boiling water

black sesame filling:
6 tbs black sesame powder, toasted (can be found at asian markets)
3 tbs shortening
3 tbs granulated sugar

sausage filling:
kielbasa sausage, cut into 4 inch pieces
grated cheddar cheese
pickled jalapenos

jam filling:
your favorite jam/jelly

1 egg beaten
1 tbs milk

1. Butter a large bowl. Mix milk, butter, egg and egg yolks together in a large measuring cup. In a stand mixer bowl, mix together flour, sugar, yeast and salt. With the dough hook on the stand mixer, add in liquids to bowl with flour mixture on low for 2 minutes. Then on medium speed, mix dough for 8-10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticking to sides of bowl but sticks to bottom of bowl.
2. Transfer dough to the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place a loaf pan on the bottom of an unheated oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water. Put the bowl with the dough on an oven rack above the boiling water and close door. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. After dough has risen, punch dough and place on a floured surface. Divide dough into quarters and then divide the quarters into quarters again (16 total pieces). Roll each dough piece into a ball and place onto lined baking sheets. If making sausage kolaches, cut dough ball in half. Then flatten the ball and place a 1/2 tbs cheese, 2-3 jalapeno slices and a 4-inch piece of kielbasa onto center of ball. Then seal up dough over filling and roll into a log. Place the baking sheets back in the oven with fresh boiling water in the bread pan. Let rise for 90 minutes.
4. Combine egg and milk to make an egg wash. Remove dough from oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. If making fruit or black sesame filled kolaches, make an indentation in the center of the dough to make a well for filling. Brush dough with egg wash onto tops of kolaches. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.
5. While kolaches are baking, make black sesame filling. In a stand mixer, cream sugar and shortening together until mixed well. Then mix in black sesame powder. Set aside.
6. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes on a drying rack. For black sesame or fruit filled kolaches, add a tablespoon of black sesame filling or jam into the middle of kolaches. Serve and enjoy.

January 30, 2017

Houston Bucket List Commences

Even though I'm technically not moving until the summer, I thought I could use these next five months to venture and cross off some bucket list items in Houston and also enjoy the time I have here in this exciting metropolis.

A Hot Bowl of Pho:
Houston is home to a large Vietnamese community, which in turn means that there is a plethora of places to get pho and banh mi around the city. One of my new favorite spots for pho is Pho Binh---their pho broth is one of the most tastiest I've ever had!

Fajitas are the quintessential Tex-Mex dish and The Original Ninfa's on Navigation is where they became popularized. It was a no-brainer that I had to try these super flavorful, char-grilled meats tucked inside their delicious tortillas.

Wings and Waffles:
The wings and waffles at The Breakfast Klub is one of Houston's most famous dishes and luckily I went when there wasn't the usual line around the block on weekend mornings (sometimes it's good to have the odd weekday morning free on a musicians' schedule).

Kuma Burger (unrelated to the popular Kuma's Corner in Chicago) is the newest gourmet burger spot to come to Houston. Nestled in the Greenway Plaza food court, thin patties are cooked crisply and flavored with an assortment of toppings. And topped off with a black sesame shake makes for a truly gluttonous meal.

All the Chinese Food:
One of the reasons I love Houston so much is the wealth of delicious Asian food---especially Chinese food. This is more than your General Tso's-type Chinese food and San Dong Noodle House, Pepper Twins, Mein, Cooking Girl, Mala and Uyghur Bistro have been really stellar. More dumplings, please!

Hopefully in the coming months I'll find myself eating lots of tacos and possibly attending my first rodeo...

January 22, 2017

Curry Puffs

To get away from the grind of daily life, I decided to distract myself with a baking project: Dim Sum Curry Puffs! They're courtesy of one of my favorite contestants from this season's The Great American Baking Show, Stephanie. She now has a blog and a new follower!!!

After seeing her curry puffs showcased on the The Finals Signature Challenge and the recipe posted on her blog, I knew I had to try them out, ASAP. Savory pastries are my jam.
These curry hand pies are the perfect snackable treat: they're flakey, buttery and flavorful--maybe a good game day snack for a particular big football game coming soon?
The Recipe: Dim Sum Curry Puffs from Sugar Bear Bakes. A little tip---be sure to add the soy sauce and salt a little at a time to the filling instead of dumping in all in, as I almost did. Season to taste but she recommends to make sure the filling is well seasoned since the crust will absorb the flavors as it bakes.

January 16, 2017

New Kitchen Toy

After a decade, I've finally upgraded my tiny Cuisinart Mini Chop with a real grown up food processor! I didn't go too big with a 11+ cup food pro but decided on the 8 cup one since Twin Sista said she never felt like she didn't a humungo one (she has a 9 cup one). My new one feels so luxuriously big since it's a big step up from my old 2.6 cup model.
For it's inaugural run, I decided to process cauliflower since putting cauliflower through my old mini chop was a big headache/mess. To be honest, I ran into a few snafus this time with my new food pro (I ignored the fill line---oops!) so it wasn't as smooth a test run as I'd hope it would be. (Some of the florets wouldn't get chopped since I overfilled the bowl).

Regardless of the little kinks in my first attempt to use my new gadget, the cauliflower was chopped nicely into little rice bits to make grain free fried rice. I'm not always a fan of cauliflower fried rice but I thought I'd give it a chance---and you really can't go wrong if the recipe includes bacon.
The Recipe: Asian Cauliflower Rice from the Kitchn. It's herby and written for a paleo diet so feel free to sub in soy sauce for the coconut aminos.

But if you want a simple, delicious recipe for cauliflower rice, look to Against All Grain's Basic Cauliflower Rice.