Saturday, 28 April 2012

Quick Update!

Well, I made the top 25 for the MasterCard internship so that's something to look forward to!

Sorry I've been neglecting this blog lately...I just finished exams and now I have to mark exams and move into another place for the summer. So it's been a little wise and relationship wise... and I really don't know what I'm doing right now. It's that gap between the chapters when you are kinda stuck and not know what to expect.

Also...Chris is leaving for an engineering job far, far away and I no longer have the camera that takes pretty pictures. I gotta find one before my next project...possibly a graduation present?

That's it for now...I really do hope I find more time to update this in the future.

Friday, 20 April 2012

What Does Cashless Mean To You? - MasterCard Internship

When I saw this internship opportunity, the first thing that came to my mind is-- I can bake a cake! Not only is it a way to distinguish myself from other applicants, it's my opportunity to show off what I love and how a cashless society can make it convenient. This will also be my first attempt shooting a video of the baking process (with a few cashless twists of course).

(Go to the YouTube page and comment for a chance to WIN)

So what does a cashless society mean to me? Well, I never realized how much I depended on my credit card until I had to go without it for a week due to fraud. I never used cash because I like to collect those bonus points, but also because I like to spend before my monthly cheque. To me, my credit card is the buffer zone between when I spend and when I get paid. By the end of the week, I had 15 dollars left in my bank account and was forced to cut down on my spendings because I realized my buffer zone no longer existed.

The topic of a cashless society has been an on going debate. Yes, there are less people using cash these days but what about public transits? Daily coffees? Downtown Parking? Maybe it's by chance that I'm one of "those" who don't drive a car, walk to school, and make my coffee at home, but my life style proves that it's possible to go cashless. Think back to the last time you used cash...Was it because you were going to a "cash only" stop? And wasn't it a hassle? The MasterCard definition of a cashless society is a wallet-less one. Not even credit cards; only your phone. To me, that sounds like an efficient and secure society.

I chose to demonstrate the possibilities of a cashless society through the process of baking. It's a passion of mine and I trust that every one of you out there have a love of your own. If there is service that could make life easier so you can spend time doing what you love, then why NOT go cashless?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Carrot Cake with Cute Carrot Decorations

I have made Carrot Cupcakes on the blog before and the recipe hasn't changed other than a little addition of milk. You can visit my other post for the recipe and if the batter is too thick, like I found it to be this time, then add a few tablespoons of warm milk. I'm doing this post more so for the decorations that I had done and I thought they were extremely cute. If you know me, you'll know that I don't like to do the same recipes twice, not only for my blog but also in real life. But this is an exception because someone requested carrot cakes to go with the Easter bunny theme.

Piping the carrots were much easier than I thought. I used a medium sized round tip and just piped a line then dragged it at the tip. I wasn't completely happy with the greens because I originally wanted to use parsley to make it look more realistic. I used a cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes and a butter cream frosting for the carrots. Cream cheese frostings usually come out softer than a butter cream and can't be stiffened with the addition of icing sugar. The butter cream holds its shape much better and it's important that the carrots don't lose their shapes and smudge all over the place.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Butter Cream Frosting

This is one of my biggest project yet, and I'm so proud of it. I should have, and could have, spent the day studying for my 100% finance final but it's a week away so I'll be fine right? I had the intention of getting some work done that day and my intentions translated to : flipped open my book, read the first question, wrote down the equation for it then thought...maybe I should try out that vanilla cake recipe.

Oven-Baked Jalapeno Poppers

These Jalapeno poppers are simply delicious and I have no idea why I haven't tried this earlier. They are not the healthiest for you but I'd like to think that they are health-ier than the deep fried versions. I've seen these done with bacon wrapped around them but that's almost too much for me. I like the bread crumbs because they provide a nice crunch and there's enough richness from the cheese filling alone.

Chris and I demo-ed that batch of poppers in no time and it's always a good sign when he asks me to make it again some time soon.

There are great as a dinner party appetizer and in fact, that's what they were supposed to be. I was going to bring them to a potluck but they were so good and I couldn't stop eating them. So no, I didn't end up going to the dinner party but I was content with my poppers.

The jalapenos were surprisingly mild after they were baked. It was only slightly unbearable when you get closer to the stem so naturally Chris ate all the tips and I had all the ends. I had also used cayenne and chipotle in the filling as well as the bread crumbs but I didn't think it was too spicy. One way you could cut the calories is to use the low fat cream cheese and a skim-milk mozzarella. I only had the regular cream cheese because I normally use them for frostings and I don't buy the low fat versions cause they never work. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

These are super cute bunny cakes that I saw on youtube from yoyomax12. She does a whole bunch of different decorating techniques and this one is called "decorating cupcakes: #36 Bunny". I used the same lemon cupcakes that was in my post for the Easter Egg cupcakes so if you want the recipe you can check that out.

She used miniture m&ms for the eyes but I didn't have any so I just used dark chocolate chips and it worked perfectly fine. You'll also need some pink jelly beans for the nose. I should really start collecting the different sorts of candy for cupcake decorations. The problem is, every time I buy candy for these purposes I end up eating all the left overs and I would still have no ingredients the next time I need them.

Easter Eggs in Spun Sugar Nest

Easter is literally 2 days away and I'm still scrambling to get these cupcakes done. I've been meaning to do them last Wednesday but then end-of-the-year projects came and I couldn't find any time. I've seen these cupcakes done over and over but I haven't found one with a nest made out of spun sugar. I saw these sugar crowns in Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes" and thought they would make perfect nests. Great Idea but a terrible method.

The book says to heat the sugar until it reaches 300 degrees then plunge it in a ice water bath until it cools down to 250. Set a wooden spoon over the kitchen counter with the handle part suspended. Then drizzle the sugar over the spoon so that the handle catches the caramel strands. The method doesn't work because the spoon doesn't catch any of the threads and dollops of caramel just fall onto the newspaper I laid below. Putting the hot caramel in a ice bath doesn't work either because the outside hardens immediately and the center is still piping hot.

I attempted this 3 times before it actually worked out. The first failed because of the ice bath and the second because I kept stirring it to cool it down and eventually the whole pan just became a chunk of sugar crystals. I thought about giving up after my second batch failed. I could have resorted to the phyllo shreds option...but I didn't.

On my third batch, when the temperature reached 300, I took it off the heat and swirled it to cool. Then I made a little decapitated whisk by cutting all the ends off a regular whisk. I used that to drizzle the caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper then scraped it off to form a ball. Thank god it worked because I don't know if I had enough patience to try again.

The cupcakes I used were lemon cupcakes from the book "hello cupcakes". They weren't the greatest so I'd suggest using another recipe, but I'll post the original and suggest some adjustments that you can make.

Kale Chips

I came across this idea on one of Laura Vitale's cooking videos. I thought it was so brilliant that you can make chips out of a vegetable. Then I googled it and it was all over the internet so I did I not know about this?

I bought myself some kale and decided to try it out. There are so many different baking temperatures/baking times on the internet and I kind of winged it because I didn't know which I should trust. I went with 350 degrees for about 13 minutes. I baked some on a pizza pan that had holes in them and some on a regular baking sheet. The ones on the pizza pan baked a lot faster and kept the green colour much better. So the next batch I decided to bake them on a cooling rack set over a regular pan.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pot Roast

This has become my favorite meat dish lately. It's so delicious but takes no effort to make. I used a cut called the bottom blade but I think any kind would work as long as you don't waste your money on a tenderloin or something. The cooking time is long, around 3.5 hours, but you're not really doing much other than browning the meat then let it cook in the oven.

There are probably billions of pot roast recipes out there and you may be confused by all the different methods. When it comes to recipes like this I think it's better to cook without a set recipe. Just use whatever you have on hand and it's going to taste great if you follow the basics. The most important rule is to brown the meat very well because that gives it the most flavour. Then the meat should be cooked slowly either on the stove top or in the oven until the meat is almost falling apart.

The oven method works the best for me because I tend to forget things on the stove and would probably burn it. I also think the oven is very convenient just because you can leave it on and not having to worry about adding more or less liquid.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Homemade Chipotle Oil with a Hint of Rosemary

This recipe is credited to Chef John from Foodwishes who had done a chipotle oil a while back. I just added the rosemary for some extra flavours but mainly a prettier presentation. I had my doubts about intensity of the infused oil, but it actually turned out pretty well. Chef John said you could use any sort of spice with a bright color and a good flavour, but I personally think the chipotle is the best choice because of the smokiness.

I used the oil to make kale chips this morning, and it gave the most incredible flavour. The spice from the oil is subtle, but it really adds to the overall flavour of the chips.

I definitely recommend buying a cute little pour bottle if you want to try this recipe. I think I spent less than $4 on mine at the bulk barn and to me, it's totally worth it. The ingredients are so simple and you'll impress all your guests.

1 1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsp Chipotle powder
1 sprig rosemary

Heat the oil until it reaches 160 degrees. I over heated mine so I just let it cool down a bit. Pour over the spice and rosemary then cover and let it sit somewhere for a week. I didn't count how long mine sat there for, I think almost 2 weeks though. Technically, it shouldn't make a difference if you don't let it sit for the full time because it's only extracting flavour when the oil is warm (at least that's what I think). So when the oil becomes completely cool, not much more would be happening to the oil in the later days.

That's just the theory, but if I'm wrong, please let me know. I'm not in science after all. Enjoy this recipe!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Greek Salad

Greek salad is probably my favorite kind thanks to those chunks of feta. Yummmm. The two ingredients that set it apart will probably be the olives and the feta cheese, gotta have them. Everything else can come and go and I wouldn't even notice.

I didn't use any cucumbers simply because I forgot about them. You can definitely use them if you want, they are a common ingredient in Greek salads. The yellow peppers are highly recommended, it gave a great colour and added a nice sweetness. 

I think I've mentioned before that a grocery store just opened on campus. They have local suppliers so their prices are kinda all over the place compared to the big super markets. Some stuff are super cheap while others are ridiculously unaffordable. Well tomatoes are not one of them and they've become my favorite snack lately. I have them in my salads or just by themselves. I usually buy 1 or 2 pints on the way from school so I always have super fresh ones. #greatthingstohaveonhand (Ha. I thought I'd never be one of those people)

For the dressing, I just used what I had on hand. There is a good recipe for making bulk amounts on allrecipes if you are interested. That recipe calls for red wine vinegar, which I don't have, so I used lemon juice instead and it works as a perfect substitute. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

One-Pot Peanut Butter Brownies

Another rich and delicious recipe that makes my life easier by using only one pot! I made these for the commerce Dean's Scene on Friday and brought some to the Pre. The left overs were awesome because I would bring a few pieces to parties or meetings, and of course, it made me the favorite person there. I'd also  have a piece when I wake up, as a snack during the day, and binge food when I come home drunk. For all those reasons above, I want to make a commitment to always having baked goods on hand.

I tried to make it pretty simple by using straight forward measurements...AKA no 3/4 cups and 2/3 cups. All the measurements are whole numbers just to make it easier for my brain to remember. Normally I try to remember what I've put in during the process, then write it all down afterwards. I just recently started using a notepad so just so my recipe is slightly more accurate. 

Brownie recipes are pretty straight forward: flour, chocolate/cocoa or both, butter, sugar, eggs and you've got yourself a brownie batter. Unlike cookies, it's pretty hard to screw up the batter. There's a variety of combinations you can try and the worst that can happen is you end up with a brownie that's too fudgy or too cakey for your liking. Actually the other day I heard it's also possible to over bake it. I've never had that problem because I only bake mine for 30- max 40 minutes and know that it will set when it cools.