New Year’s Resolution

It’s been way too long since I lasted posted on this here blog. Now that I’ve graduated and have some free time, I vow to dedicate more time to my beloved food blog. So, my new year’s resolution is to post at least once a week about all the extraordinary food wonders of the world for your enjoyment. Oh, did I mention that I started my own food business?!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLook out 2015! Here I come!

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New Year’s Resolution

This little piggy…

I don’t claim to be the best at fryin’ up bacon, but I am the best when it comes to chowin’ down on it. I LOVE bacon just as much as I love cake or even hot summer days. Though frying bacon on a hot summer day I do not love. Bacon in cake, yes please!

See, you must understand that our friend the swine is a good friend, a highly dependent friend, a little dirty, a little on the plump side, but they always clean up after themselves, despite their messiness. The pig and I have a lot in common. Our love of food, any food, really makes us the best of friends. Our relationship might be a little one sided, in that he has more to offer in our friendship than I do. I take and he gives. We’re working on that.

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Many of the other delectable parts of my swine friend deserve a blog post of their own, however, bacon is just well, the best thing since the discovery of, well, bacon.

We must really thank the English and their European counterparts for the animal and the word. Whether spelt bacoun or bacon the word and this particular cut of meat have been around since as early as the 11th century. Heck maybe it even predates the 11th century, but no one wanted to share their wondrous salty and crispy discovery. I don’t blame them.

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Our friend the little piggy, fell victim to the cogs of the Industrial Revolution. As with many other aspects of human life, the poor piggy had to leave the fresh air of the countryside where he could roam free and happily graze during the Summer and Fall months.  Come the Winter, our friend provided his life to sustain a family through those cold and harsh months. The life and death of our four footed friend was short, but sweet. He was local and sustainable. The city air did not make him free.

Unfortunately, everyone caught on to the benefits of our hog friend and he sold out. Yes, the pig went commercial and an industry was built around his assets.
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I guess I should talk about the cooking of this finely cured meat, but honestly, as long as it’s not burnt or raw, then it’s cooked perfectly. Baking bacon in the oven is less messy and super easy. Sometimes I like to sprinkle a little brown sugar on one side before I pop them in the oven. Oh yes, sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy….

Frying bacon in a pan takes a little more focus. Make sure your pan isn’t TOO hot and that you’re not overcrowding your little piglets. You don’t need to add any oil to the pan, since the bacon will depart with its delicious fat rather quickly. I keep a mason jar next to my stove to store all the remaining fat. Yes, I cook with lard. Just make sure to strain the fat before pouring it into the jar. You don’t want to have all the little burnt bits ruining your perfect fat.

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This little piggy…

The Boyfriend Cookies

New Year’s Day had come and gone. Our bellies and heads ached with food and drink hangovers and as the second episode of Chopped came on my boyfriend asked me to bake him cookies. This was the first baking request in our new relationship and I happily obliged to bake him some peanut butter cookies.

I love peanut butter cookies. They are sweet and salty, moist and crunchy, and super easy to make. I decided to add chocolate chips to the batter because who doesn’t love the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

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sifting away

Sift and weight all your dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

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Mmmm brown sugar.

Always make sure to take your butter out of the fridge before baking. Having room temperature butter will help when blending in the suger, especially if you’re mixing by hand.

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Blend butter and sugar together.

Blend butter and sugar till smooth and creamy. This is my favorite part of baking, blending the sugar and butter together. It’s fun to watch the fat and sugar blend into a fluffy sweet mixture.

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Stir in the peanut butter to the batter.

Once the sugar and butter is well blended, add the egg and vanilla. Fold in peanut better by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. You can use any kind of peanut butter that you like. Chunky peanut butter is always a nice way to add some crunch.

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All incorporated.

This is the point when the interested party walked into the kitchen to taste their special treat.

Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in the chocolate chips.

I like to use dark chocolate chips when baking. I used a combination of dark chocolates ranging from 60% to 72% cocoa.

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Shape into 2 inch balls before pressing with a fork.

Always chill your cookie dough before baking. If the fat is too warm, then the cookies will flatten in the oven. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

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Baked and cooling.

These cookies smelled so delicious coming out of the oven. The boyfriend got a plate full of cookies and a tall glass of milk. I think he was satisfied. Maybe I’ll bake for him again.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz (140g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz (115g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 oz (165g) brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 9 1/2 oz (265g) smooth or crunchy peanut butter
  • 8 oz (276g) dark chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 *F; grease baking sheet.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Mix together butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  4. In another small bowl, mix the egg and vanilla together and then gradually add to the butter mixture.
  5. Stir in the peanut butter. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Gently stir in the flour mixture and then the chocolate chips.
  7. Chill in fridge for at least 3o minutes.
  8. Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls and place onto sheets.
  9. With a fork, press flat onto the balls making a criss-cross pattern.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly colored.
  11. Cool on baking sheet.
The Boyfriend Cookies

Blueberry Empañada Filling

Don’t get me wrong, I love my savory empañadas, but there comes a moment where sweet wins by a landside. If it’s summer time, then it’s a no brainer. Summer fruits at their peak make the best desserts. Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, oh the choices! My favorite summertime pie or empanada filling has to be blueberry.

Several years ago, I came across a Spiced Blueberry Pie recipe in Sunset Magazine. I live by that recipe. Every summer I make a point to make the sweet and spicy berry pie and it always proves to be a crowd pleaser. If the masses like it, then you know it’s good! The combination of rich spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and black pepper mixed with brown sugar and lemon juice create the sweetest spicy filling.

Baking, like cooking, is the best way to showcase the movement of cultural groups and their foodstuffs. No modern cuisine is exempt from outside influences. When I make my spiced blueberry empañadas I like to think that I’m tasting a little bit of every continent.

Spiced Blueberry Filling  (Makes 12 large or 24 small empañadas)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and any remaining stems removed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup packed brown sugar (depending on tartness of berries)
  • 1 tbsp instant tapioca pearls
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Preparation:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over a medium-high heat. Stir often to incorporate all spices.
  2. Let fruit come to a boil, scraping sides of saucepan often. Once the fruit has thickened to the consistency of a thick pudding, turn off heat and let cool.
  3. Fruit mixture should cling to the side of a spoon. Mixture is done when it holds it shape as it falls back into the saucepan.
  4. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to use.  
Blueberry Empañada Filling

Apple Empañada Filling

Apple season is approaching alongside the coloring of the leaves and the cool fall weather (well not in the Bay Area at least, it’s like summer time over here!). Did you know that there is at least 7,500 varieties of apple in existence today? Insane! Apple empanadas are also one of my favorites to make and eat during the cooler weather days.

Apples for All!

The filling is precooked and cooled prior to stuffing. Any kind of apple can be used, as long as it’s not too soft or too sweet. I prefer to use Granny SmithGala, and/or Golden Delicious (the 3 G’s!). If your apples are sweet, just remember to reduce the amount of sugar called for. Also, I like to use LOTS of spices. This recipe only calls for cinnamon, but feel free to experiment with whatever available spices you have.

Check out the 12 best apples for baking. 

Apple Empañadas  (Makes 20-25 small empañadas)

Ingredients:

  • tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 4-5 green apples
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp dulce de leche (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Peel and core apples; cut into 1 inch chunks. Add apples to a sauce pan with butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir over medium heat. Cook until tender.
  3. In a small bowl mix 1-2 tbsp water with corn starch until smooth. Add to apples and cook until thick.
  4. Remove apples from heat and add dulce de leche until well mixed.
  5. Chill until ready to use. 
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350* and bake for 20-25 minutes. 
Apple Empañada Filling

Anyone want a cookie?

School and life are at the peak of craziness and sometimes I just need to decompress and make something simple and sweet. COOKIES! Baking is my sanctuary, my release from life’s tight grip, my escape from formalities, and my ‘I know everything is going to be alright’ quick fix.

Last night I decided to bake up a special treat to take to my classes. Yes, I am the student that takes freshly baked cookies, cakes, muffins, and empañadas to class with me. No, it doesn’t help me get a better grade.

I had a bag of frozen cranberries, some left over chunks of chocolate, and crystalized ginger candy around the kitchen, so hey why not make some Cranberry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with a touch of ginger!

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Chopped dark chocolate

I like to use chopped chocolate over chips. The chocolate gets chopped into all shapes and sizes making it ooze through the cookie with chocolate yumminess.

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I try to get even pieces, but the flaky dust is the best!

Cutting cranberries can be tricky. I start with a small amount and keep adding a handful until I can give a good chop all around. You can also use dried cranberries, but when using chocolate the dried cranberries can make the cookies too sweet. Fresh cranberries give the cookie a nice tart taste that pairs well with the dark chocolate.

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Coarsely chopped frozen (or fresh) cranberries.

The recipe didn’t call for candied ginger, but I love it, so in it went! It adds an unexpected burst of spice and sweetness.

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Candied Ginger. You only need a little bit, since it can be an overpowering flavor for most people.

I like to keep my cookie dough in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it. Put the bowl back in the fridge in between batches. Like pastry dough, you want your cookie dough to be as cold as possible to ensure an even baking in the oven.

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Mix it up!

I didn’t have any old-fashioned oats, so I used instant steel cut oats instead. I was worried it wouldn’t work out, but it gave the cookies a nice crunchy texture.

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Straight out of the oven!

Always let your cookies cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before eating or packaging them.

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COOKIES!

This recipe is adapted from an Epicurious recipe. This batch should make about 30 cookies.

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Have two large baking trays ready. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend; set aside. Using an electric mixer (or by hand), beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrap around sides of bowl to incorporate all the goodies.  Fold in flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips, cranberries, and candied ginger.
  2. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. While cookies are baking place bowl of batter in refrigerator until ready to use. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
Anyone want a cookie?

Pumpkin-tastic!

When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.

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This is a sugar pumpkin, which is the best to use for baking and cooking.

I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!

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Straight out of the oven and fully cooked pumpkin

Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.

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Pumpkin Mash!

Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!

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Sugar and Spice!

Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

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Pumpkin and spices

Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.

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stir it up

Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!

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Get the juices out.

I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.

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Get your dough ready!

Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.

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Making dough is so rewarding. Oh the little things in life!
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Don’t add to much filling or they will BURST in the oven!

Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.

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Little pockets of AWESOMENESS!

Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.

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My oldies but goodies!

Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!

Pumpkin Empañada Filling

makes about 2 cups of filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )

Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.

Pumpkin-tastic!