>> Did you sign up for a tea swap penpal? Today is the last day to sign up <<

Chocolate & Cherry Oatmeal Espresso Cookies

hapatite-1060558-4

I wasn’t lying when I said that we make oatmeal cookies all the time. They serve as a great base for many different flavors and can be customized with consistent results. They take less than 15 minutes from bowl to mouth (if you don’t mind burning your tongue) and only dirty one bowl.

This particular flavor combination was inspired by a vacation we took to Seattle. I had heard a lot about Macrina Bakery and we loaded up on baked goods while we were there. We managed to keep ourselves from eating all of the cookies and brought back a Rick’s Apricot Chocolate Espresso cookie. I substituted apricots with dried cherries here and used ground espresso powder.

hapatite-1060563

Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee

hapatite-1060893
I live about a block from a Williams Sonoma store. I often pop in while walking to the grocery store or shopping at the stores nearby to see what they have that is new or sampling. I rarely buy anything there since it is very expensive and seems to be catering to those “Semi-Homemade” type homemakers (exceptions include: Fiona’s Sweet Shoppe candies & Peppermint Bark). Around the holidays they were sampling their Handcrafted Toffee which tasted absolutely amazing but at over $30 a tin, I couldn’t justify taking it home. I kept making laps around the store and sneaking more samples while my fiancé swapped our Sodastream CO2 canister.

When we got home we were determined to satisfy our toffee craving. Toffee always seemed so daunting and complicated to make, but it’s actually pretty easy if you have patience and a candy thermometer.  The best thing about making toffee yourself is that you can control what goes in it and customize it in a variety of ways. The caramel-y toffee layer only has butter, sugar, water, and a dash of salt. The top is whatever percentage chocolate you desire sprinkled with toppings of your choice. I used a darker chocolate (70% Trader Joe’s Pound Plus) because it offsets the sweetness of the toffee, but you can use a lighter, semi-sweet chocolate. I wouldn’t go lower than 54%.

This was also my handmade gift for the holidays. We made two batches and were able to customize it based on the audience. Chopped pistachios were the “traditional” recipe; for my more adventurous friends I mixed crystallized ginger, pistachios, and cashews. The toffee tastes better the next day when the moisture from the top layer has had time to soften up the sugar layer. I opted to break the pieces by hand and package them up into little bags since I liked the homemade look, but portion-ing out into a mini square pan would look more professional. Plus, with the shard style there are always little pieces left over you can sprinkle into your morning coffee.

hapatite-1060891

Pumpkin Pecan Cupcakes with Cranberry Orange Relish

hapatite-1060863

This week marks many things -

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Leopold’s gotch-ya day, and my 27th birthday.

1075249_10101068567898176_1121074856_n These recipes came out of a conversation I was having a few weeks back at my in-laws dinner table. My father-in-law (it’s almost official, right?) whipped out some pumpkin bread he had recently picked up at Wegman’s thinking “why not?” We all agreed the bread was good, but just not the same as “Beth’s Pumpkin stuff”. What was this pumpkin bread-muffin-cupcake and why had I not heard of it? More likely I had heard of them, possibly eaten them, and just forgot about them and their reputation. I made my mother-in-law promise to send me the recipe and later that night it arrived in my inbox.

There aren’t many recipes that I don’t make modifications to. I kept the cake recipe the same, even leaving in the pecans. There are two camps in the “nut” baked good battle; some like the textural contrast of the nuts and some find it offensive and disharmonious. I added the pecans because: 1) I love pecans and 2) I had them in the apartment. My mother-in-law leaves them out and they taste just as good.

In this case, I took my mother-in-law’s recommendation and switched the original recipe’s frosting out for her tried-and-true and award-winning cream cheese frosting. I added in a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree leftover from the cake into the frosting and topped these with some cranberry orange relish, which I had already added a few tablespoons of to the batter.

You might think topping a cupcake with relish is crazy, but pumpkin and cranberry are both flavors that can go savory or sweet. This relish is more like a coulis and the tartness and brightness of the topping really do a great job to keep this treat from getting too heavy. You can even argue that this has fruit and vegetables in it–with cream cheese, it’s great for breakfast! Plus you know there’s going to be leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving.

hapatite-1060864

Salad with Pickled Beets & Feta #SecretRecipeClub

hapatite-1060874

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was paired up with Turnips 2 Tangerines. After trying out some apple cider garam masala pickled beets at my local farmer’s market, I decided to tweak Lynn’s recipe for pickled beets. Thankfully I was able to find pre-cooked and peeled beets, so this recipe was even easier!

I simply subbed out the vinegar for apple cider vinegar and the spices for garam masala. I used the pickling liquid to make a simple vinaigrette (1 tablespoon pickling liquid, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or to taste, dash salt and pepper, 1/4 teaspoon mustard).

The bitterness of the greens, saltiness of the cheese, and tang of the beets all go well together. The cider vinegar and spices keep the beets from tasting too “dirty”, but they still keep their earthiness.

I’ll have to go back to Turnips 2 Tangerines and look at the other recipes I was having trouble choosing from, including: Spicy Refrigerator Pickles, Surprise carrot cake, pear nut cake, and chocolate pecan coffee cake!

hapatite-1060875

 Loading InLinkz ...

Secret Recipe Club

Marmalade & Pistachio Tea Cake #SecretRecipeClub

hapatite-1060858

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was paired up with K&K Test Kitchen. One of my favorite things about the site is the design since the colors are so well coordinated and it is appealing to the eye. I am a web designer by day, so thats one of the first things I noticed.

hapatite-1060857

This was another month where it was hard to choose just what recipe to make. I changed up my tactic this time and asked my fiancé to pick a recipe after I whittled it down to Healthy Spinach Dip, Artichoke Dip, Pistachio Marmalade Cake, or Cashew Chicken. Even though he picked spinach dip, I ended up making the cake. Next time I swear I’ll let him really choose!

hapatite-1060859

I figured this would be a great opportunity to use some of my various jams in the refrigerator, as well as my cute gingham mini bundt cake liners from World Market.  I did adapt this recipe to use what I had on hand, and it turned out no worse for it.

I had a lovely Japanese Quince jam gifted to me by my friend Stephanie that was just itching to be used in this. I have a problem when I get things that tast good. I actually don’t eat them. They’re so precious to me I always save them for later, but then they end up getting thrown away! I wasn’t going to let that happen to this jam, so I whipped 2 mini cakes up and sent her one as part of a care package.

hapatite-1060860

You can substitute the cider for any juice (orange juice is the original). I also substituted the cornmeal with almond meal, and replaced the orange marmalade with quince jam. I also mixed the pistachios with some chai sugar I picked up at Mitsuwa on a recent trip to New York to echo the cardamom in the mix.

The texture of the cake was a bit crumbly and the bottom was a little overdone (the middle wouldn’t cook all the way). I don’t think this is due to the substitutions since this same issue was noted on K&K Test Kitchen. In the future, I would recommend bumping the cooking temperature to 325 so that none of it overcooks.

Since the cake itself that was not adjacent to the topping was a bit bland, I would definitely add more jam next time so that the flavor is more pronounced.

 Loading InLinkz ...

Secret Recipe Club

Grilled Barbeque Chicken Pizza #SecretRecipeClub

hapatite-1060576

My second pair-up with The Secret Recipe Club is Traci from Burnt Apple. There were a few different recipes I was interested in, particularly the German Chocolate Cake Cookies or Bobby Flay’s German Chocolate Cake, but somehow I steered myself away from the sweets and landed on Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza.

hapatite-1060573

This recipe is incredibly easy and adaptable. It is a great snack to whip up for the game(s) that are starting up this fall!

But, like Traci says, choose a barbeque sauce that you like because it is a major player on the palette. I had a pulled pork and bbq pizza yesterday at a local restaurant and the sauce killed the otherwise crunchy crust and gooey cheese.

 Loading InLinkz ...

Secret Recipe Club

Twice Baked Potatoes #SecretRecipeClub

SRCpotatoes3

Have you ever heard of The Secret Recipe Club? I found out about it through a few blogs that I follow and thought it was a very neat idea. The way I explain it to people is that it’s like Secret Santa. You get assigned a blog “buddy” and visit their blog to pick a recipe you want to re-create. Once you find a recipe from their blog, you make it, photograph it, and post it. Everyone reveals their assigned blog at the same time and date. It’s fun to go around to different blogs and see who had who. It’s also a great way for smaller blogs to reach out to a different or larger audience.

SRCpotatoes2

For my first SRC match-up I was paired with Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere. I was torn between a few different recipes that I wanted to make, but her Twice Cooked Broccoli Cheddar Potatoes called out to me. Baked potatoes are something that I rarely eat now that I’m an adult because I don’t want to heat up a whole oven for 2 potatoes. I had all the ingredients for this recipe in the house after I made some substitutions, including some potatoes that had been lingering in my crisper for far too long.  I swapped the broccoli out for some green bell pepper and added some wasabi mayo, barbeque sauce, and breadcrumbs into the mix.

This recipe is easily adaptable and surprisingly filling. I ate 2 halves for dinner and was pretty satisfied. I re-heated one for leftovers and it was revitalized quite well after a minute in the microwave.

 Loading InLinkz ...

Secret Recipe Club

Double Chocolate and Espresso Cookies

hapatite-1060551

You know something’s a success when people ask for the recipe after eating it.

I was a little doubtful while scooping these cookies out onto the baking sheet. The batter didn’t look like any cookie dough I had ever seen because it was pretty loose and some even lost their shape when they hit the pan.

I was still worried after they were done baking and I chomped on one while still warm from the oven. It just tasted o~kay.

But, I let them sit overnight and by the next day they had somehow changed. The flavors had mingled together and become stronger. The texture on the outside had become crunchier and the inside more fudgy, like a brownie. In fact, these taste like a delicious brownie-cookie hybrid, and they even double as a caffeine pick-me-up because of the chocolate covered espresso beans.

Everyone that tried these cookies became an immediate convert, even those that don’t like coffee (read: my mom).

Even though a little more work goes into these to melt the chocolate, there are only 2 tablespoons of butter in the entire recipe. Can you believe it? I think I’m going to try coating these with sugar next and see if they can replace my traditional Milk Chocolate Espresso Cookies at Christmas time. If you’re one of those that doesn’t like crunchy things like nuts or candy in your cookies (like my fiance), then you can replace the chocolate covered espresso beans with a strong espresso powder.

hapatite-1060552

A Slice of Paradise: Hawai’ian Banana Bread

hapatite-1060148

Banana bread, like Zucchini Bread, is basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Because of the addition of fruit, a slice of this bread can be justified at any time of day.

hapatite-1060143

I completely overlooked this article about Julia’s Banana Bread in the March issue of Bon Appétit until I saw it pop up on fellow hapa foodie Erica’s blog Cannella Vita. After reading her post, I rummaged through the magazine and read the article and was convinced to attempt the recipe.

hapatite-1060144

My family is from Maui and the first time we visited Hawai’i we made the trek down the road to Hana. I remember seeing this green shack, but didn’t know that it hid delicious treats. Next time I go to Maui (for my honeymoon!), I’ll be sure to stop by Julia’s to try some banana bread. My hometown, Pai’a, is the “last stop” on the way to Hana, so I have absolutely no excuse.

hapatite-1060146

This banana bread is a great slice of comfort in the cold, chilly mornings of Winter (when the recipe was originally posted in Bon Appétit), but it works equally as well on the sticky summer days we’ve been having recently.

I sprinkled the top of the bread with some raw sugar I picked up the last time I was in Hawai’i and added in some whole wheat flour to boost the healthiness so that it’s even easier to justify that second slice. The bread looks even more inviting on this tie-died, honu printed sarong I picked up from Pai’a when we were there last.

Tipsy Honu:

The “Hapa” Age of Reason

Age of Reason

My fiance (how weird to say that?!) and I recently returned from a vacation to Brooklyn & Philadelphia. One of the many souvenirs we brought back were these ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters from a shop called Whisk. They are quickly becoming our new favorite add-in to new and tried-n-true cocktails. Last weekend Dan whipped up this refreshing drink using some shiso I snagged from our pitstop in New Jersey’s Mitsuwa Market on the way from New York to Philly. Shiso is nearly impossible to find in the DC area, so I always bring some back whenever I can go to a Japanese-centric mart. Unfortunately, since it’s so precious I want to keep it for something special and often times it ends up going bad!

Make this “hapa” version of a drink called the “Age of Reason“–hopefully it will help you survive the current heat wave and kick-off the weekend right.