Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Minion Cupcakes

Tomorrow my biggest little man turns 5. What is that cheeseball saying again? The days are long but the years are quick? That's definitely been my experience. 

My kids and I recently just experienced the holidays with family stateside. While there, I'm pretty sure my kids and their cousins watched Despicable Me 2 about seven zillion times. Know how often we hear "bee doh bee doh bee doh" around here? Well, if you have littles who have seen this movie, you probably know what I'm talking about. Add on an uncle who is a firefighter and gave the kids a tour of the fire house and trucks, and, well, fireman minions are super popular. 

A friend made minion cupcakes (and a sweet purple minion cake) for her son's fifth birthday. My son saw them on Facebook and was smitten. We made some of the minions for his birthdayin class tomorrow. He's already selected which funny faces should be allocated to which friend. 

Step one, while the cupcakes are baking, assemble the minions. Our selections are rather slim here, so we used wintergreen Altoids and knock-off Twinkies. I'm not going to lie, I feel a little bad about a class of preschoolers biting into Altoids unsuspectingly tomorrow. I also kind of want to see their faces. Is that terrible of me?

Anywho, I used the black sparkle gel frosting which takes a bit to set up, so definitely get these started first. 

When your cakes are cool, slap some frosting on them. I am not a fan of canned frosting, this is a simple buttercream made with butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and a little sea salt. Dyed blue to match the minion overalls (plus blue is my son's favorite color). I added a little green because, well, I like blue green better. I used the little caulk gun-like device sold by Pampered Chef. 

If you like, add some sprinkles. Do it while the frosting is still freshly applied so they stick. I like sprinkles. They're not really that minion-like, but whatever. 

And last, nestle your minions in the frosting. Again, I would try to get them on before the frosting hardens for the best results. 

These puppies are tall, I'll be using a covered cake container to transport them. 

These are really a cinch to make, and my son has repeatedly told me how excited he is to share these with his friends. Totally worth it. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

A friend in my mom's group is a major fan of her crock pot. If it can be made in a crock pot, I bet she's done it. I'm with her on the crock pot love; it cuts down a lot of time in the kitchen, allowing me more time to keep my kids from burning the house down. Win.

This is her recipe, with a few tweaks (mostly due to my pantry constraints). My husband loved it, and I'm going to jump on the bandwagon there too. I left it mild in case my kids would actually eat some, but if it were just my husband and I, I would have kicked it up a few notches. 

The biggest surprise from cooking this was how amazing the onions turned out. Perfect. 

If you are like me, and using an American crock pot without a converter on lower voltage Japanese plug-ins, you may find you only cook on high. 

Crockpot Pork Carnitas


1 onion, thinly sliced 
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil 
3-4 lb pork tenderloin or roast
1 can beef broth
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t chili powder
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper 

Put the onions in the bottom of the pot. Drizzle with the oil, then add the roast. Add the spices (salt and pepper the roast to taste). Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5. Or in my situation (see above), cook on high for 6-7 hours. 

This is the roast fully cooked. Shred it with two forks. Add the meat back to the onion and broth mix and cook an additional 30 minutes or so. 

Here's what the onions look like after the initial cook. 

Final product. YUM. You can maybe imagine how good it made the house smell. 

There are probably a thousand ways to serve this up. I made tacos by frying some corn tortillas and serving with beans, shredded cabbage, tomato, salsa, and sour cream. 

Homemade Mayo (in Under 5 Minutes!)

Homemade mayo seems ... well, maybe kind of silly at first. Why would I make mayo? That's something you buy at the store. Inexpensively too, I might add. Ain't nobody got time for that.

But maybe you read something about how good homemade mayo tastes. Or you are trying to eat more whole foods, and you finally read what's actually in that tub of goodness. 

Either way, you start researching and turns out, it kind of looks like a pain. Slowly drizzling oil into a food processor, separating eggs, sheesh. 

If you have a stick/immersion blender though, making your own (way tastier) mayo is super easy. And fast. And easy to clean up. You can tweak it to your hearts content, making spicy or smoky chipotle mayos, using whichever oil you choose, etc. 

This recipe is for a basic, tangy dijonaise-type mayo. Omit the mustard and switch out the apple cider vinegar for lemon juice and a little salt and pepper if you want it less tangy. 

Homemade Mayo

1 egg (I like to wash the shell with soap and water but you don't have to)
1 T apple cider vinegar 
1 t Dijon mustard 
1 T water
1 c oil

Put everything but the oil into the immersion cup or a wide mouthed mason jar. 

Add the oil into the cup, let it sit a few seconds. 

Plunk the stick blender into the bottom of the cup, and turn it on.

You can bring the blender up a bit to get the last bit of oil into the emulsion if you like.

It should be done in about 15-20 seconds (seriously). It will be thinner than commercial mayo, if you like it thicker, you could use just the egg yolk.

Ta da!

What do you think?

If you need to make some Whole 30 compliant mayo, you will want to substitute mustard powder for the Dijon (Dijon mustard has white wine and sugar added). I've made it that way before, it's not quite as good in my honest opinion but still pretty tasty.

Hey, I know you are a grown-up and you know this, but remember that this is fresh. No preservatives. Which is good BUT it's not going to keep for two years in your fridge. Keep an eye on it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Beginnings

This post has no recipe. Just wanted to get that out of the way, so you can stop reading if you like.

So I mentioned in my last tomato leek (and feta! and tofu!) recipe that we moved. To Japan.  Specifically, we moved to the beautiful little subtropical island of Okinawa. From Alaska. To say the climate alone (negating the huge culture and lifestyle change) was different is a massive understatement. We left knee-deep snow and arrived to capri weather and palm trees. And a million percent humidity. But I digress.

What does this all have to do with a cooking blog? Well, you may see some mentions of strange-sounding ingredients. Or hear about my trials and tribulations deciphering food labels or finding good substitutes for things we don't have access to here. Otherwise though, like always my focus is fairly easy, good, healthy food for a family. So to all two of the people that maybe read this blog, keep reading. Share in our adventure on the other side of the world. It'll be fun!

Some of the local, fresh-caught fish choices at a market. We have had to say goodbye to our huge self-caught bounty of Alaskan salmon and halibut, but made some new friends. The blue fish are amazing.

More mystery ingredients at an open-air market for us to learn about. We have found that generally Okinawans will gladly explain what all of these goodies are.

This isn't Okinawa. I don't believe we ever really get fall here. This is a side trip to mainland Japan, in Nara, this fall. Fantastic fall foliage.

An Eisa drummer performing for Obon, warding off bad spirits from our home.

This is a little church at Zanpa. I think it's mostly utilized for destination weddings. Okinawa is a popular tourist destination for mainland Japanese. Maybe you can see why, it's kind of the Hawaii of Japan.

Tomato Leek Tart, Part 2 (With Tofu)

I keep coming back to this recipe. I haven't blogged in forever, in part due to moving to Japan, but that's beside the point. Leeks are in the markets very frequently here (quite a bit less often back in Alaska where we lived before), and so often when I see them, their crisp white and green selves beckoning beneath the tidy plastic parcel everything comes in here, I think of tomato leek tart.

I was at a shop down the road from my house and saw a huge bunch of leeks, and decided to make a couple tarts. Nevermind tomatoes are not at quite their best here lately. I didn't have the cheese my original recipe called for (people used to shopping in Japanese supermarkets will feel my pain on the cheese issue), so I modified the recipe. 

I also added a bit of protein in the form of tofu. Many of you will stop reading there. I promise, though, my tofu-loathing husband didn't know there was tofu in there until I told him. Try it, you may find you like it. 

Here are the bulk of the ingredients, all chopped up. If you use a stone, you definitely want the filling all prepared beforehand, as the crust will immediately begin to melt and then crisp when it's plopped on the hot stone.

Here we are assembled, ready for the sides to be tucked up. My second stoneware pan broke on my concrete floors here, so I had to sub a silpat-covered baking sheet. It still turned out fine.

All cooked. Moving to a new oven, which is now electric, and operating on slightly lower voltage that it was designed to, I found my stonewear-baked tart needed two extra minutes and the one on the cookie sheet needed another 1-2.
Again, you want to let it rest a bit before slicing so all the veggie juices don't run amok. 

Tomato Leek Tart, Part Two (With Tofu)


1 package refrigerated pie crusts
3 medium tomatoes, diced
3 leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 package firm tofu, cubed
1/2 c. Crumbled feta cheese
4 T. Grated Parmesan cheese
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F. If using a pizza stone, preheat that as well. 

Unroll the pastry crusts and arrange 1/2 of each ingredient in an even layer in the center 3/4 of the crusts. Fold up the edges. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Popcorn Cupcakes

Tomorrow is my baby's first birthday (sniff). I made some "practice cakes" for his daycare tomorrow in preparation for his circus birthday party on Saturday.

The idea was for the cupcakes to look like little sacks of popcorn. To make them, I alternated globs of yellow and white buttercream in a large ziplock bag, snipped a tiny hole in the corner, and started piping. The little cake liners are from Amazon, I was hoping a red and white stripe would resemble the old school popcorn bags.

I thought the ziplock made the kernels seem a bit more irregular and realistic than a regular piping bag would. Plus I don't have a piping bag as I am not that fancy.

After I did the first layer of kernels, the buttercream was getting a little warm from my hand so I put the cakes in the fridge for a bit. Then I piped on the second layer. You want your buttercream to be fairly dense so you can get the volume necessary to look like popcorn.

I think I mixed a little too much yellow in this batch. Too movie theater. It'll be better next time though, right?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Feta Bacon Chard Tart

I'm pretty sure I posted about a chard tart before. This one is loosely based off the last, but it's different. Why?

It has BACON!

I know you are still reading (well, assuming you aren't a vegetarian anyway).

Another awesome thing about this tart: I grew the chard in my my little garden, with help from my son.

Bragging is over, here's the recipe:

Feta Bacon Chard Tart


1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. water

1 T oil (I used coconut oil)
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, destemmed and chopped
1 1/2 t. dried basil
salt and pepper
4 slices thick pepper bacon (try the meat counter at your grocery or meat shop, they have great bacon that you can buy by the slice).

1/2 package cream cheese (I used light), softened
3 eggs
1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 c. feta (I used a sun dried tomato variety)
1 T. sriracha (rooster) sauce

Combine flour and salt, mix in the oil and water and briefly mix until it starts to get a bit gluey (maybe a minute). Press into an even layer in a square pan and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375

Heat the tablespoon of oil in a big, honkin' pan on medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and sauté until mostly translucent. Add the garlic and the greens. Sauté until soft, another six minutes or so. Remove from heat, stir in salt and pepper to taste and the basil.

While the veggies are cooking, fry the bacon over medium-high. Drain on a paper towel and chop.

Mix the eggs, cream cheese (I microwaved it about 10 seconds beyond room temperature so it would mix easily), cheeses, and rooster sauce.

Add the veggies and bacon, mix well, and spread evenly over the crust. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Let cool, serve warm or room temperature.