Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Buttery Goodness

If you love chocolate and you love peanut butter, this just may be the perfect cupcake combination for you.
I accidentally stumbled on this recipe while viewing this food blog a few months ago

I stared at the recipe for weeks. I've never baked anything with this many steps, so I was definitely intimidated! I thought I had the chocolate cake recipe pretty down pat, but the steps involving dropping the beanut butter fillings on a dollop of cake batter, then filling the top half of the cupake with more cake batter I found quite daunting. And then the frosting, that was even more duanting, I have NEVER had a terribly successful (and by that I mean yummy) frosting come from scratch. So I bookmarked the recipe and decided to put it off...

... until a pregnant friend of mine invited a few of us over to her place for dinner. This was the excuse I was looking for, not just a party, but for a pregnant friend. Now I could indulge.... err, I mean, help my fellow sister in Islam fullfill a pregnancy craving. :p

They turned out delicious. In fact, I've made them 2 more times since. This is officially my favourite cupcake, hands down. I'm not a huge cream cheese fan but I liked the frosting. Mainly because it too was peanut butter flavoured.

* I made 2 batches the first time. If you look in the comments section of the blog post, you'll see that many posters mentinoed their peanut butter balls exploded inside the cupcake. Mine did too the first time. I made the second batch but froze the peanut butter balls for 15 minutes and they held up well and were perfectly in place after baking. Taste wise - they were equally delicious both times, I just wanted to get it right for OCD reasons and aesthetic reasons. ;)

* If you want your cupcakes to look pretty and professional, you can buy a starter kit at Walmart complete with a few cupcake decorating tips and piping bags. This is the one I own. I used the smaller of the two star tips.

* I refrigerated the frosting for about an hour so that it would pipe well and not get messy.
* I don't have any pictures of the inside, because... well... by the time I pulled out my camera to snap some pics, I had already eaten too many. No way was I going to bite into another so I could take a picture!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, or if I'm forgetting to mention something, ask away! =)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

A recipe that my grammie made for us. We all continue to make because it is sooooo yummy and you get some zucchini. So you can say, "but I am eating my vegetables!" and have your cake too :-)

1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter or margarine softened
1/2 cup of oil
3 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 cup of buttermilk (or 1/2 cup of milk and a splash of vinegar)
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of cocoa
1 3/4- 2 cups of shredded zucchini
1 bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs, oil, vanilla and buttermilk (or sour milk). Stir together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and cocoa. Add dry ingredients slowly to the wet. Stir in shredded zucchini. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan. Sprinkle the whole cake with the chocolate chips. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Indoor BBQ Chicken

This is a post for my friend, Jen :-)

4 pieces of boneless skinless chicken (more or less depending on your family)
2 teaspoons of oil (canola is what I use)
2 cups of favorite BBQ sauce (we make our own, but it is hubby's secret recipe)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on both sides (about 4 minutes on each side). Remove the chicken from the skillet. Add the BBQ sauce, scrape up any browned bits, and bring to a bubble.

Turn the heat to low, return the chicken to the skillet and coat with the sauce. Cover and cook until the chicken is done cooking (depending on the thickness of chicken) 10-30 minutes.

Saag Paneer

This recipe I took from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman. My hubby and I, the two fans of Indian food in the house, like to eat it with basmati rice, and naan. I made it recently with spinach from our CSA, and it was delicious!

1 1/2 pounds of fresh spinach
3/4 pound of paneer cheese (I use less than this and sometimes none at all)
2 tablespoons of ghee
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
3 small dried chiles (I substituted cayenne because I didn't have these, about 1/4 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons curry powder (I get this at the Indian grocer)
(I also add, not in the book recipe, some turmeric, cardamom and cumin)
1/2 cup of yogurt (I use the greek yogurt, which is less watery)
1 1/2 cup of half and half

Trim the spinach, and wash it carefully (it is usually grown in very sandy soil). Do not dry. Chop into pieces. Cut the paneer into 1 inch chunks.

Put the ghee in a skillet. Heat in a deep skillet at medium high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chiles. Cook for a minute or two until the garlic turns blond. Stir in all the spices for about 30 seconds. Then add all of the spinach. Cook, stirring until the spinach wilts. Then add the yogurt and 1 cup of the cream (I usually stir these together before adding, it makes it smoother, in my opinion). Let the mixture boil fairly rapidly to cook off some of the liquid (stir constantly!). (If you are not going to add the paneer stop here and do not add the other 1/2 cup of cream.) When it has cooked down and most of the liquid has cooked off add teh paneer and the remaining cream to desired consistency. Taste, adjust seasoning if you like and serve with rice and/or naan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Know What You Did at The Check Out Line

I seem to be wacky things lately. First, I copied down a recipe off a magazine at the doctor's office. Ok, well apparently, it runs in the family because my mother and sister do it too. But then, as if trying to stand out more than I already do, I had to do another thing; memorize a recipe in a magazine at Albertson's check out line.

I have to tell the truth. I hate those check out lines. Why? Because they are always littered with tabloids usually displaying lewd pictures, and I hate that my children have to see those. So we always tell them to wait for us at the other end of the check out line. At Meijer's they had those coin-eating horses that we could redirect the kids to, but here, there ain't much choice. But the kids seem to know why we always tell them to go, so they do.

I have to tell another truth. i love those check out lines. Why? Because they are adorned with home and cooking magazines usually displaying scrumptious food pictures, and I love that I could pick them up and browse through them while hubby and kids unload the cart and wait to pay. I especially love it when the line is long, though many times, I've had to cut my reading short because customers are coming in behind me. At times I get the question,

"Are you in line?"

I know. I'm annoying.

But this time, I did what I never thought of doing before. I was browsing through this cooking magazine whose name I don't even remember, and I my greedy eyes landed upon a luscious cake. I fell in love. Head over heels. I beckoned for S to come and help me out. I don't remember how it came about, but I whispered surreptitiously to her,

"Ski, you think you can help me memorize this recipe?"

I read and reread the recipe. A cake recipe is quite familiar to me now, and one that involves egg separation, I am also familiar with, so memorizing the recipe was a cinch. It was mostly common sense with a little baking know how. The ingredients was the challenge. So we ended up memorizing the ingredients. Right there and then. I looked up to see hubs completing his payment.

"Hurry, S. You think you got it?"

And like a good obedient daughter, she obeyed me. I could almost see her the clockwork in her brain. She slowly nodded.

As we walked out the store, I quickly rummaged in my messy handbag, looking for a notepad and pen (which I always have anyway). Aha! And on the way to the parking lot, I quickly scribbled the memorized ingredient list, thereby creating quite a sight to behold: an abaya clad woman, face covered, not looking where she was going, hastily scribbling something on a notepad while walking towards her car, following her husband and children. Oh well, who cares? I already am a sight to behold with the niqab anyway.

So for quite some time, the recipe sat in my handbag, untouched. My fervor had dissipated, though it was at the back of my mind. Then a few weeks ago, we bought heavy whipping cream because I wanted to make Swiss rolls. But I only used one carton. The other 1 pint carton was still sitting in the fridge, awaiting a gruesome death at the hands of a neglectful owner. Well, neglectful I am not, for I finally rescued that carton of heavy whipping cream from such an end !

With the help of my lovely children, I made the Strawberry Tres Leches. That reminds me. Getting the strawberry jam for this was not straightforward. I try to avoid non organic berries now, because they are one of the fruits that are high in pesticide. So when we set out to buy jam for the cake filling, we had a dilemma. H, my son, was with me at the time. he forgoed jam for bread and we bought an organic raspberry jam for the cake instead of strawberry because they were out of strawberry. And with that, I present ...

Strawberry Tres Leches Cake

For the cake:
5 eggs separated
1 C sugar, divided 3/4 C and 1/4 C
1/4 C milk
1 ts vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the milk combo:
2/3 C milk
2/3 C sweetened condensed milk
2/3 C evaporated milk

About 1 C strawberry/rasberry jam, slightly warmed for easy spreading

1/2 - 1 C heavy whipping cream
1-4 Tbs powdered sugar

1. Preheat over to 350 Fahrenheit and grease a 9 in springform pan
2. Beat the yolks with the 3/4 C sugar until light colored and fluffy
3. Combine the flour with baking powder and mix well, then add it to the egg mixture alternately with the milk in 2-3 additions, beating well after each addition. That basically means, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then mix well, stop, add 1/2 of the milk, mix well, stop, add another 1/3 of flour mixture, mix well, stop, add rest of milk, mix well, stop, add remaining flour mixture, mix well
4. In another bowl that is free of grease or egg yolk, beat the egg whites till foamy and then gradually, add the 1/4 C sugar until stiff peaks form.
5. Plop one peaked spatula of egg white onto the egg yolk mixture and fold in gently. Then fold in the rest of the whites until thoroughly combined
6. Bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
7. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Then invert onto cooling rack and cool completely
8. Now this is the fun part: Like a crazed person, poke as many holes as you can in the cake from the top with a cake tester or or skewer. Have a go at it! But just be sure not to tear the cake apart while you're at it. You just want to make enough holes so the milk combo can soak through the whole cake.
9. When you're done a-pokin', place the cake in a container with sides that is slightly bigger than the diameter of the cake. Then combine the 3 milk and pour onto the cake.
10. Refrigerate overnight.
11. By the next day, the cake should be drenched and have soaked up all the milk solution. Invert onto a large plate and prepare to slice the cake horizonatally into half. I used a serrated knife and did some guesswork. It was a little tricky because the cake is so soaked that when I placed my hand on the top while cutting, it wet my hand, so I used a cake insert just so my hand won't get wet from the milk.
12. Spread the jam over the bottom half of the cake and carefully, very carefully (since the cake is wet and can break easily) place the top half inside part down over the jam.
13. Beat the heavy cream with powdered sugar until it looks like whipped cream. Be careful not to overbeat or it will curdle. If it does, you can rectify this by adding more heavy cream, but if you don't have anymore on hand, you're in big trouble.
14. Spread whipped cream on top of cake. Best eaten chilled.

I had made a Tres Leches cake before, but it was a different recipe. I think we all like this one better. Now the next time I'm at a check out line, I know what to do.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Say Cheese!

It's creamy, rich yet not too overpowering, light yet not airy. It was perfect. I only wish I had a topping to pour on this off white smooth-topped cheesecake.

I rarely do this (not out of aversion, but more out of laziness), but this time I did. At the doctor's office, I picked up a magazine, flipped through it, and a photo of a scrumptious cheesecake caught my eye. Without thinking, I quickly rummaged through my purse for a pen and notepad, and copied down the recipe.

The recipe remained on the bulletin board near my work station for weeks, a month maybe, before I actually did something about it. My Taleem classes and homeschooling left me little time to indulge in extra kitchen activities. But I had snared myself into the trap. I bought the cream cheese when we went shopping, and so, that morning, I took out the cream cheese boxes and left them on the counter so they could come to room temperature.

By the time they did though, I was too lazy, spent, and exhausted to make the darn cheesecake. I was about to put the cream cheese back in the fridge, when the kids offered to help. They must have really wanted that cheesecake. So, somewhat reluctantly, I agreed, and before long, I had kids crushing the graham crackers, melting butter, patting the crushed crackers mixed with butter onto the bottom of the pan and the rest was a breeze. Without these helping hands, I would have probably ditched my intention to make this cheesecake and used the cream cheese for eating with pita bread and graham crackers for snack.

I didn't use Philadelphia cream cheese though, but it still tasted delish. Why didn't I use it? I was being frugal. My only reason. I also used more than 6 graham crackers. I think I probably used about 10-12 graham crackers.

Philadelphia New York Cheesecake

6 graham crackers crushed (I dumped about 10-12 graham crackers in a bowl and handed my kids a pestle and told them to crush them crackers to bits)
1 C sugar
3 Tbs sugar (keep this separate for the crust)
3 Tbs butter, melted (courtesy of one of the kids. I forgot which one)
5 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened (that basically means, you leave it at room temperature)
3 Tbs flour
1 Tbs vanilla
1 C sour cream (at room temperature)
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Prepare a 13x9 rectangular pan (if you have one with a removable bottom, that would be even better). No need to butter the pan.
2. Combine crushed graham crackers with 3 Tbs sugar and melted butter
3. Dump this mixture into the pan, and using the bottom of a measuring cup or hand slipped in small ziploc, press it so it forms an even crust in the pan. No need to push it up the sides. Just cover the bottom.
4. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.
5. At low to medium speed, cream cream cheese, sugar (the 1 C), flour and vanilla till smooth
6. Add sour cream and continue mixing
7. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, beating till smooth after each. Do NOT overbeat.
8. Bake 40 minutes or till the center almost sets. I usually do a jiggle test. I hold the pan and slightly shake it. If the center jiggles like jelly but doesn't slosh over, it's done.
9. Cool completely
10. Refrigerate 4 hours (and this was where the kids groaned. After all the helping they did, I guess they had a right to groan like they did.)

But it's definitely worth it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Southwestern Corn Chowder

I adapted this from a recipe I got off of recipezaar. My mom had this soup at work one day and I thought I could do an even better version from scratch. Now my mom can't eat the one they do at work anymore, she says mine is so much better! And it is a fairly simple and quick recipe to whip up on a cold night. We serve it with crusty bread and butter. Em likes to dip her bread in the soup.


* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 cup celery, finely chopped (I like to do the veggies approximately the same size as the corn)
* 1 cup onion, finely chopped
* 1 red pepper, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
* 2 tbls chili powder
* 2 tbls teaspoon cumin
* 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
* 1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn
* 16 ounces frozen corn (I like to do a half bag of regular corn and a half bag of Trader Joes Fire Roasted Corn, it really is a good flavor!)
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 6 tablespoons flour
* 2 cups cheese, shredded (I usually use cheddar)


Melt butter in a heavy pan. Saute onion, celery, red pepper and garlic until tender. Stir in broth, chili powder, cumin, and corn. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Bring the soup up to a medium heat. In a small bowl, add cream to the flour, whisking until smooth. Add to soup mixture. Stir until thickened. Cook approximately 5 minutes, stirring often. Add cheese, stirring until melted. Serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Ch. Whatzisname?

We both stood in silence in the kitchen, both trying to coax the darn name of the thingamajig from our apparently dormant Malaysian brains, or should I say, fake Malaysian brains.

I have been thinking of this Malaysian snack. I miss it. This snack is one of those things that can be easily whipped up. Good for when company drops by unexpectedly or at short notice. These deep fried fritters can be unhealthy if eaten on a daily or even weekly basis, but once in a while, it is a treat, especially for those who live in foreign lands (outside Asia). That is one reason I think I have forgotten what it's called, because I hate deep frying, and because whenever I have made this snack in the past, it turned out tough. So eventually I gave up making it. It's not worth it to slave over hot oil on the stove top only to produce little rocks that test the mettle of your jaw muscles. And I think, hubs probably forgot its name because I make it once in every 5 years (or 8).

He had asked the kids if they were making pancakes for breakfast, and I chimed in,

"I'm making cekodok here!"

I was cleaning a bowl of little dried anchovies because he likes his anchovies cleaned. He is not fussy about everything else, but his anchovies, oh, they have to be cleaned. So cleaned them I did.

"Cekodok? That's not cekodok. We don't have bananas. That's not what it's called!" hubs retorted.

"I know. I can't remember what it's called. Somehow I knew cekodok sounded wrong, but it's not jemput-jemput. So what is it?" I asked, admitting defeat.

And that's when a wave of shameful silence swept over us. Such an embarrassment to our fellow Malaysians. I guess that's what happens when you live overseas for so long, and you do not really strictly adhere to your culture like how magnet sticks to metal. The fact that hubs (who is usually more Malay than I am, and makes fun of me for not being Malay enough) also forgot, is a terrible sign. We are both horribly floating away from our Malaysian roots. We already have trouble remembering what certain Malaysian dishes or food item are supposed to taste like, and now this. I think we've gone over the limit. We need to go back for a visit very soon.

He finally left the kitchen and went back to his Arabic assignment, while I continued working in the kitchen, still trying to recall the dang darned name. And all of a sudden, the rusty wheels started turning, clanging and clonking all the way.


"Cucur!" I exclaimed.

"That's what it is!"

I am still Malaysian after all! Hah! I beat hubs on this one.

And that's what it's called; Cucur. There are many different kinds of Cucur. Cucur Ikan Bilis, Cucur Bawang, Cucur Udang. Let me translate that. Anchovy Cucur, Onion Cucur, Shrimp Cucur.

It's basically fried dollops of batter made of flour, water, salt, egg (though some may omit this) and whatever you decide to dump in, either anchovies, chopped shrimps or plain chopped/sliced onions. It's formation is somewhat akin to the formation of Jemput-Jemput Pisang, but the ingredients are completely different. And for the one that I made this morning, I utilized the little baking know-how I've gained over the years to fend off the rocky versions of my past Cucur, hence the addition of eggs (to give it more air), milk (to make it tender) and baking powder.

The oil needs to be hot. We Malaysians do not measure the temperature of our oil, so unfortunately I can't say what temperature the oil should be at, but I'm guessing 375 Fahrenheit or 350. What I usually do is observe three things with regard to the oil so know if it's hot enough or not; the viscosity (the hotter it is the more viscous it is), the silence (the more silent it is, the hotter it is) and how hot it feels to your palm when you hover your palm about 3-4 inches above the oil's surface. When in doubt, I'd drop a small piece of whatever is supposed to be fried in the oil, and if it sizzles beautifully, it's ready. If not, either you will end up with a sticky problem or your to-be fried item cooperates as you prod it and you can fish it back out and let the oil heat up a little bit more. Not much help, I know. Sorry.

Because I am a blameworthy perfectionist, I can go crazy if my Cucur are not formed properly. Same goes with my Jemput-Jemput Pisang. I don't like them too big (and since I put in baking powder, it will double in size) so I use two teaspoons to form the Cucur dollops. I hold one spoon in each hand, and because I am right handed, I scoop the batter with my right spoon, pour it onto the left spoon, flip my now empty right spoon upside down and smooth the batter in the left spoon with the right spoon, curved side facing down. Basically, I am making a rounded shape on the left spoon and I swipe off any dangling bits of batter hanging off the left spoon. Then, very carefully and gently, I hold the left spoon over the hot oil, very close to the hot oil, and slide the rounded dollop off the left spoon with the right spoon. The batter should slide pretty easily and submissively into the hot oil. Ahhh...you can't even hear a plop. Once drowned in the hot oil, the baking powder, the little air beaten into the egg, and everything liquid and dry together perform the chemical performance they're meant to perform. The dollop rises as the chemical concert fill its surrounding with wonderful gas (no, not the far-tey kind), expanding the molecules inside the batter, very much like what happens to a cake batter in the oven.

However, because I used a flat frying pan as opposed to a deep rounded bottom wok, the shapes of my Cucur are not that rounded. Instead, they have this distorted hourglass look because the part of the batter underneath the surface of the oil expands, and pushes the top part above the oil level, resulting in a pinched middle. Because I was too cheap to use the wok for fear of using up too much oil, I guess I have to live with that shape. I am a perfectionist, but not an extreme one.

By the way, a friend of mine, a Malay, living in Malaysia, says that she calls everything cekodok (every deep fried dollop that is) and that Cucur, in her family's vocabulary, refers to something else. So...I guess, maybe I wasn't that far off from what I meant to say. Yeah right! I guess to Kuala Lumpurians, we refer to this particular snack as Cucur, so I still am an embarrassment to my fellow Kuala Lumpurians at the very least. Malaysia is a pretty diverse country, very multicultural and even among the Malays, the names of food item can be pretty mixed up and can get confusing as you go from state to state. It's a beautiful thing, really. It's like pop and soda in the United States.


3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder/ground turmeric
3 stalks green onion, sliced
about 1 cup cleaned anchovies
1/4-1/2 C sliced red onion/4-5 small shallots
1 egg
1/2 C milk
3/4 - 1 C warm/hot water

1. Combine flour, baking powder, turmeric, salt, green onions, anchovies in bowl
2. Lightly beat the egg with a fork
3. Combine egg with milk and water
4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until a slightly watery batter results. Its consistency is thicker than pancake batter, but not too thick like peanut butter.
5. Make sure the oil is hot (read above, in bold and italicized)
6. Form the dollops using the method described above (in bold) or simply scoop the batter with a teaspoon and drop it in the hot oil. (It's not complicated. I just love making things complicated. My husband can attest to this)
7. Do not overcrowd the pan , so place just enough dollops in the pan to keep the oil temperature stable because if the temperature drops, your dollops might stick to the pan, and even worse, those dollops will absorb a lot of the oil
7. When the bottom side is golden brown, flip the darned dollops
8. Once evenly browned, lift and drain on wads of kitchen paper towel or strainer. I'd say strainer is your best bet to further cut down on the evils of deep-fried food
9. Enjoy with tomato ketchup or chilli sauce

Break one open while it's still hot. As you do so, wisps of steam will gush out from the depths of the Cucur. Right before your eyes, (if you haven't yet popped it inside your mouth) the treasures within the Cucur greet you; the emerald green onions, rubies red onions, and golden anchovy tails, all wonderfully embedded in the saffron yellow of the soft Cucur. Sink your teeth in it. Delight in the medley of experience taking place on your tongue. Your taste buds and olfactory senses are texting each other.