Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weekend Fried Rice

It's Saturday-thank Heavens! So are you going out for dinner tonight, have some drinks with friends or staying in and make something out of those leftovers during the last 3 days? Either way, fried rice is the quickest dinner you can make on a weekend. Plus you get to save from throwing those leftovers to waste.

Make sure your cooked rice is cold/chilled for a couple hours or at least a day old (and cold). Warm, freshly cooked rice creates gluten and your fried rice will be sticky, soggy and mushy instead of loose, free-flowing dish. 

Ideas for ingredients aside from the cold cooked rice, salt and pepper, cilantro or green onion for garnishing; anything goes!
1.  Basic omelet, thinly sliced; set aside.

2.  Cooked but cold, chopped or minced chicken, pork; any meat (grilled makes for a smokey fried rice)
  • Added last
3.  Raw jumbo shrimp, thawed & drained but still cold (flash fried or lightly grilled, set aside)
  • Added last
4.  Cooked shrimp 
  • Added last
5.  Cubed ham, flash cooked; set aside
  • Added last
6.  bell peppers, any color; cut into strips or cubed
7.  Chopped onion
8.  Roasted garlic
9.  Mushrooms (canned, drained; fresh: cleaned and sliced)
10. Carrots, cut into strips
11. Celery, sliced diagonal
12. Broccoli
13. Snap peas
14. Snow peas
15. Frozen green peas
16. Frozen corn 
17. Garlic powder
18. Onion Powder
19. Soy sauce, fish sauce, etc..
20. Few drops of sesame oil for flavoring 
22. Cooking oil of choice preferably one with high smoking point (corn oil, canola, light olive oil, vegetable; I used coconut oil)

My fried rice: it has leftover grilled chicken and pork plus pre-cooked store bought shrimp. This was actually so good. It was almost like an indulgence.

Don't forget: it helps to use a big wok or pan-cast iron included. It should also be pre-heated well almost to smoking point, including the oil you will cook on. Use liquid seasonings (soy sauce, fish sauce, etc...) last and sparingly to prevent your fried rice from being soggy.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Cheese Plate Cannoli. cannoli piatto di formaggi.

New, cannoli flavor!

 The Cheese Plate Cannoli©

There is nothing Southwest about this or even Filipino. I guess this is very much American instead of Italian! I made and served this on New Year's eve dinner for dessert. And I have been meaning to make this since the beginning of last year but was just too busy to do so or I was just wary of implementing this project. The idea of this cannoli was inspired by the Iona cupcake I made 2 years ago on my birthday.

Being wary, this was a process: I bought the cannoli shells early fall last year (it kept well until New Year) in a local Italian shop in town since I don't have the metal tubes to mold the cannoli (yet!) if I chose to make them myself. And the place really sells this authentic-looking cannoli shells anyway (with 'bubbles' jutting out of the shells; and so much more Italian delicacies too!). 

Then I bought a small tub of mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese, and 5 oz. (really small cut) of Edam cheese-just a couple days before new year.

Being Filipino, the Edam cheese was a cultural, Christmas thing. Again, it's something the Spanish colonizers left to the Motherland. (It's even more a Dutch thing actually!). I read it's because of the "red" wax which covers the cheese that make it symbolic for Christmas. 

Anywho... I'd rather call these guys a "cheese plate cannoli" instead of naming it after Robicelli's Iona cupcake since most of the ingredients are made of "cheese" (like the Stilton called for in the original Iona cupcake). 

Yup-these has some stinky stuff, but seriously worth for you to try!

 * Option 1: Cheese Plate cannoli dusted with powdered sugar (only). The port wine was not reduced but stirred in the mascarpone-ricotta filling. No walnuts.

  • electric hand mixer or stand alone mixer
  • pastry bag or half-gallon resealable bag
  • coffee mug
  • bowls, rubber spatula, measuring spoons, etc called for in the recipe.


6-8 cannoli regular sized shells
1 small tub of ricotta cheese
1 small tub of mascarpone cheese
1/4 t guar gum (natural thickeners)
1/4 t xanthan gum (natural thickeners)
4 T crumbled Stilton or blue cheese of your choice
3 T finely shredded Edam cheese
1 small Anjou pear-peeled & shredded + lemon juice
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries, finely chopped
3/4-1 c powdered sugar
1/4 c candied walnuts , coarsely chopped (recipe below)
1/4 c powdered sugar for dusting (more or less)

Port Wine Reduction:

Port (ruby) wine of your choice (I just bought the affordable kind; you can splurge if you want.)


1. Read recipe from beginning to end.
2. Prepare your ingredients (Reduce the wine; prepare the pear and candied walnuts; shred the Edam cheese, chop the cranberries, etc...)
3. In a large bowl, dump the mascarpone and ricotta cheeses in it. Add the 3/4 c powdered sugar, guar and xanthan gum too. Using your electric mixer on low speed, blend and combine until creamy and thick. About 2 minutes.
4. With all the other ingredients prepared, ready and cooled (hopefully)-dump them on the mascarpone/ricotta mixture EXCEPT the Port reduction and the powdered sugar for dusting. Fold (do not mix) them into the creamy mixture until well combined. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. After an hour, take it out and stir on low one last time for 15 seconds with the electric mixer before scooping it in the pastry or resealable bag. *4­­
6. For 6-8 cannoli shells, scoop and dump 1 cup of the filling in the bag careful not to reach the corner at the bottom of the container.  7. Lift the bag with filling and cut a small (about 1 cm.) hole at the corner then slightly seal the top of the bag; squeeze out the air pockets by pushing the filling until it just barely reaches the hole.
8. Pick up 1 cannoli shell with your other hand, then fill both ends with the 'cheese plate' mixture-making sure you start in the middle of the shell but also careful not to overflow both ends. Set aside on a big, flat serving plate; repeat #8 with the remaining shells.
9. When all of them are filled, decide how you want it served with the remaining ingredients: the port reduction, powdered sugar and candied chopped walnuts.

I have included some ideas and options for you to choose how you would like to serve them. Unfortunately, there are only 2 photos of the several serving options I included here. For some reason-I can't seem to find the other memory card of my camera. But I am sure you get the idea

Will definitely post more photos if I find that memory card.  

Filling recipe is for more than 8 regular sized cannoli shells; it will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Please DO NOT freeze.
*² After shredding the pear, squeeze 1 T of lemon juice in it; stir and then drain using a strainer by pushing out the liquid with a tablespoon. Set aside.
*³ 1 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup white granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp unsalted butter. Coat walnuts with the butter-sugar using your fingers; bake in 350° oven for 20 mins. Cool completely before coarsely chopping. Set aside. 
*4 Open wide your pastry or resealable bag with one of the corners resting at the bottom of the coffee mug. Let the mouth of the bag hang out and rest on the rim of the mug.

* Option 2: ends dipped on candied, chopped walnuts; dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with port wine reduction. 1st photo and similar 3.
* Option 3: naked. Drizzled with Port wine reduction-only; photo below has walnuts.

* Option 4: both edges lightly dipped on chopped candied walnuts; drizzle the port wine reduction in a zigzag motion on top of the cannoli, sprinkle a pinch or 2 with chopped candied walnuts (so it sticks to the reduction) and dusted w/ powdered sugar. Highly recommended. 

* Option 5: dusted with powdered sugar, drizzled with port wine reduction (vise versa), sprinkled with candied walnuts.

* Option 6: pour the reduction inside a squirt bottle and make some solid circles/dots on the sides of a cannoli; a skewer dipped on the port reduction will work to make the solid rounds/dots too!

* Option 7: make this a totally 21st century Italian cannoli by using Italian solid semi-firm cheeses like Gorgonzola and Fontina; pistachio instead of walnuts; Lambrusco wine instead of Port. Note: I have NOTHING against the traditional cannoli recipe; in fact the basic Italian cannoli is the starting recipe I always go back to. Highly recommended.

However you want to serve them, enjoy with a glass of port or any red dessert wine. Honestly, I had 2 of these with a mug of steaming hot cocoa spiked with a few tablespoons of Port!

Well you read this here first: all photos, ideas and recipe about this post can be re-shared and adapted provided you give credit to whom it is due: yours truly.

Thanks much! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Iona Cupcake

Long story long, I saw these cupcakes on TV at that "Unique Sweets" show on Cooking Channel late summer of 2013. Immediately I knew these guys will be my go-to birthday cupcake come February.

Robicelli's are the main brain of this creation. They are a couple of professional, talented bakers who fell in love because of-guess what? Baked goods! After getting married, they set up this mom-pop bakery at the Dekalb Market (Closed; Robicelli's is somewhere else still doing what they are good at and more famous than ever.) down in Brooklyn making old-fashioned American baked goods into a 21st century masterpiece. (Why are all the perfect-tasting foods end up in Brooklyn, NY anyway?!) One thing I do know: these cupcakes were GLORIOUS!

Going back to this cupcake, the Robicelli's named "the Iona"-after a wacky record store owner in the movie "Pretty in Pink" (Molly Ringwald, 1986). Yes, these little guys were inspired by a movie and a "cheese plate". And there was no recipe-at all-of them online after I saw  the show 3 years ago but you can find it from their adult cupcakes cookbook that was selling for $25.00 at the time (plus shipping). Hell there is no way I am going to buy it for that price (yet! I do own the cookbook now for less than $10.00, free shipping; hardcover, like new.).

So it took me several months to scour-in every nook and cranny of the net-the recipe for this cupcake but to no avail. I did thought of just developing my own recipe out of the original Iona just by watching the show (It's an olive oil cake with shredded pear. The frosting was a French buttercream-which I have made several times before but with added crumbled blue cheese in it, etc..) but I really, really wanted to savor and taste the original Iona hence my obsession in finding the recipe. 

There were people who were talking about the book and blogging or posting recipes of other cupcakes from the book but NOT this! I was beginning to be suspicious that this cupcake was expensive, time consuming and a pain in the a** to make. I was nearly tempted to buy the cookbook-it was that close! To make it even more crazier: I messaged one of the food bloggers who owned the cookbook if she CAN spare the time (just a favor) to email me the recipe for the Iona. No reply (nyahaha!)

January came and went by-my birthday get together was all planned out and all the recipes for the other dishes were finalized except my birthday cake!

Right about the beginning of February 2014, the recipe appeared in the online Wine Spectator for their Valentines day wine special. "Hallelujah, it's about time!", I thought. 

The cupcake has Port wine reduction on it and Wine Specator thought that both can be an excellent topic for the month of the hearts: cupcake with a wine, the love story of bakers and the inspiration for the recipe: how cool is that? Plus it was a blessing in disguise for me! 

Which reminds me now: I saw the show 3 years ago but just found out the initial showing was on 2012. So you bet I have been missing a lot of reruns before I saw it a year later!

In the show, it looked like a breeze to make but reading the recipe gave me the creeps-literally! It did was expensive and a pain to make especially if you don't have the right equipment and patience-and yes I don't have both at the time (stand-alone mixer) I made them but I managed. I have to remember, it's for my birthday! I mean-who makes an extra special birthday cupcake but for yourself?!   

" Iona Cupcake" (taken February, 2014)

I am going to post the exact recipe from Wine Spectator instead of posting the one from the cookbook because the photo above was the result of that recipe (Save for the rustic style frosting technique, teehee!). As complicated as it is-this cupcake had some fans of their own in this little desert town and got rave reviews on the spot: one of my guests called up the next day and asked if we still have some cupcakes. We had 8 more and he dropped by and had 2. Why not?! 

Two days days after my quiet (I had only 8 guests and they came on intervals; night jobs) but successful birthday party, I privately messaged the Robicelli's on their Facebook page attaching the photo above and writing an encapsulated story of this cupcake. 

Here is their reply:

" Hooray! Those look outstanding! And yeah-they're a pain in the ass to make. We've made several hundred thousand of them. (smile emoticon) But all the work is from doing things the right way, and that's why we got our reputation! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! " 

*** RECIPE ***

For the Port wine reduction:
1 1/2 cups Port

In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring the Port to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, allowing the Port to reduce to a syrup that coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.
In the event you over reduce your Port and it hardens when cool, add a few teaspoons of water and microwave on medium power in 10-second intervals until the reduction becomes a liquid again. Mix well and let cool once more. Set aside until ready to assemble the cupcakes. Makes about 1/2 cup reduction.

For the pear–olive oil cake:
• 2 cups of peeled and shredded Bosc or Anjou pears (about 2 large cooking pears)
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with 24 baking cups.
2. Place the pears in a large strainer lined with paper towels and cover with another layer of paper towels. Place a heavy bowl or pot atop the pears and let sit for 20 minutes. (This is an important step that eliminates the fruit's extra moisture that would otherwise make for a soggy cake.)
3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the pears, granulated sugar and brown sugar, and mix on medium-low until well-combined, about one minute. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Continue mixing until combined. Stop the mixer, remove the bowl and paddle, and use the paddle to scrape the insides of the bowl, making sure everything is fully incorporated.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and add to the batter. Reattach the bowl and paddle to the mixer and mix on medium until just combined, then add the eggs and continue mixing until the batter is homogeneous (haha-in laymans term, it means "well integrated; combined thoroughly, etc...) about 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer and, once again, use the paddle to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, ensuring that everything is well-mixed.
5. Scoop the batter into the prepared baking cups, filling them three-quarters of the way. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The cupcakes are done when the centers spring back when you touch them. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely while you make the buttercream and walnuts. Makes 24 cupcakes.

For the blue cheese buttercream:
• 1 cup water
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 tablespoons corn syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 5 egg yolks
• 1 whole egg
• 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
• 1/2 cup (4 ounces) fine blue cheese
• 1 1/2 pounds cold butter, preferably European
• 1/4 teaspoon guar gum (optional)


Candy thermometer, stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments, pastry bag and fluted tip (you may substitute a sturdy plastic bag from which you have snipped a corner) 

1. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, add water, followed by sugar, corn syrup and cream of tartar. The last ingredients help keep the sugar from crystallizing.
2. Put the pot on high heat. It's going to be there for a while. Be patient and keep your eye on it.
3. Put the yolks and egg in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn to high. Just let it go! The eggs will triple in volume and go to the "ribbons stage." You can't overwhip!
4. Wait on the sugar—you're looking for 235° F, or the "soft ball" stage. When it happens, be ready to move quickly. Turn off the mixer and add the xanthan gum. Turn the mixer on to medium speed. Remove the thermometer from hot sugar. Lift the pan with two hands.
5. Rest the lip of the saucepan on the edge of the mixer bowl. Slowly tilt and pour sugar in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl. Don't go too fast. If you do, there will be chunks of scrambled eggs in your buttercream.
6. Once the sugar is all in, turn the mixer to high speed. After two minutes, begin to add the blue cheese in small chunks until it has all been added. Beat the mixture until cool. Gauge this by putting the inside of your wrist to the outside of the bowl. It's more accurate than your hands.
7. Switch out the whisk for the paddle. Next we're adding the butter. It's too heavy for the whisk, and you'll end up breaking your stand mixer if you stay with the whisk. Start cutting the butter into thin pieces—you could shave it with a cheese slicer if you'd like. Add the butter piece by piece. (Pain in the derrière, yes, but we're making an emulsion. See, if you dump all the butter in at once, the butter and eggs will never combine properly, and you'll have a "broken" buttercream. You'll be able to identify this easily—it'll be a chunky, watery, hot mess. If your buttercream does break, you can fix it! Turn the mixer to medium-high, then add a little more butter, piece by piece, until fixed. Or try adding a little guar gum. This is very strong, so add a pinch and beat for a minute, then check.)
8. Once your butter is added, turn the mixer to medium-high to add some air—10, 20 seconds at most. Transfer the buttercream to a pastry bag with a fluted tip and set aside until you're ready to assemble the cupcakes.

For the candied walnuts:
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 cup walnuts, chopped
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons water
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the walnuts. Stir for one minute, then add the sugar, salt and water. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is melted and the nuts are completely candied, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

To assemble:
Pipe the buttercream onto each pear cupcake, sprinkle on the candied walnuts and drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon Port reduction over each cupcake. Serve with the Port of your choice.

 The original Iona cupcakes being sold at Robicelli's. Photo courtesy to Cupcakes Take the Cake

Recipe courtesy of  Wine Spectator  For more one of a kind grown-up cupcake recipes, please refer to the Robicelli's cookbook, link above and in all other bookstores nationwide and online.