Sloppy Bao – Vietnamese Sloppy Joe

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It’s a little hard for me to look at these pictures now because I’ve been toying with vegetarianism the past week and this very meaty sandwiches is seriously one of the best I’ve ever made. I know, it’s a sloppy joe. Not very classy. But this one is so unique, so flavorful, and pretty to look at. It’s really just as easy as a regular sloppy joe but with a few asian condiments mixed in like fish sauce and red-curry paste. The meat mixture is really good, but I think it’s the toppings that make it shine. The recipe I used recommends Thai basil, jalapeños and mangos, but notes that Granny Smith apples could be used too. I trust Martha of course, but I thought the green apples looked and tasted perfect. I have a weird time imagining it with mangos, but if you try it please let me know! I went with lots of basil, fanned out apples, and a sprinkle of green onions for mine. I also subbed chili garlic sauce instead of the curry paste because that’s what I had and it was great too! It seems like this recipe is pretty flexible, which I love and would love to hear any of your ideas for ways to tweak it. All I can say is that you really should try this. I’ve never had anything quite like it before and it was a wonderfully quick and smile inducing weekday meal.

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Turkey Avocado Egg Rolls – CPK Copycat

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Up until a few weeks ago, it had been a really long time since I had eaten at a California Pizza Kitchen. We had some family in town, which meant a girls only shopping trip was in order! We were probably 20 minutes into the outing when lunch became the next inevitable step. When your shopping has barely begun and the food court kinda sucks you can always count on a CPK to be attached to the mall somewhere. And side note: I have mentioned my love for food courts before on this blog, so when you hear me call one disappointing enough for me to ditch it, you know it’s bad. I think my love for food courts has diminished significantly since moving back to Colorado from Boston though. Boston food courts were the bomb! Anyway, this trip to CPK was the first time I didn’t get a pizza and boy was I pleasantly surprised (I replicated my salad too – coming soon!). My mom had the turkey avocado egg rolls for her meal and was nice enough to share because they were so good that everyone needed to experience it. I decided right away to try these at home even though I felt pretty unsure about how well I would be able to replicate the presentation. Really, the most challenging thing was figuring out how to roll them up properly, but after a quick google session I had it down. This turned into a bit of a hybrid recipe where I used this as a guide for proportions and for folding the wrappers, but I did a bit of a different sauce and fried them because, duh. You could of course bake them though! For my sauce I actually used one of those packets of ranch powder in a spicy flavor because for a reason unknown even to me, I hate buying bottles of ranch dressing. If I absolutely need it for something I’d prefer a one-use option. These egg rolls are such an awesome party food/appetizer that tasted even better than the original, in my opinion. They are similar to the guacamole wontons that I made a while back, but with all of the salad like fillings, it could be substantial enough for a full meal if you’d like (I did!).

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A Taste of Foods to Come

DSC_5059[Sloppy Bao – Vietnamese inspired sloppy joe]

I always get mega excited when I try a recipe that is so delicious that it’s worth repeating. I have found a lot of those lately, which is awesome, but despite my enthusiastic texts to my mom and sister immediately following the consumption of a repeatable dish, I never actually repeat it. No matter how good, I am not a recipe repeater. I used to be pretty against outfit repeating. I’m sure this was influenced in some way by the Lizzie Mcguire Movie (anyone?). These days though, I am ALL for outfit repeating. I mean, some weeks I catch myself repeating basically the same outfit every day with just a minor tweak or two…dark skinny jeans, army green utility jacket, white or grey t-shirt, navy Keds = big YES for me.  I of course still love changing my outfits up every so often, but when it comes to cooking dinner I love variety and experimentation, which evidently translates to no repeats. Ever. This isn’t even something I realized until just recently because I used to have a tiny rotation of go-to dishes. No idea what to make and don’t want to go to the store? Ok, time to make some carbonara. Those go-to’s have been neglected as of late and for the moment, I’m totally cool with that. Here are my top 10 recent repeatable dishes that I probably will never repeat but would totally be happy to eat again (Whoa). Most surprising to me is how many salads are on this very official list! I’ll be posting about each of this in more detail very soon. Let me know if any of these look particularly interesting to you!

DSC_5089[Grilled Steak and Onion Salad] DSC_5102               [Just one amazing burger]DSC_5222      [Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Radish]DSC_5270       [Birthday Macarons]DSC_5271               [My pride and joy – homemade croissants] DSC_5311         [Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette – OMG]  DSC_5328         [Grilled Peach Pizza]DSC_5362         [Turkey Avocado Egg Rolls – Inspired by a lady lunch at CPK]DSC_5369 [Caramelized Peach Salad – also inspired by said shopping day lady lunch]DSC_5381            [Tuna and White Bean Salad]

My First Love – Mac & Cheese

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Oh, goodness. I feel 50% sheepish and 50% totally psyched to be writing this post. Yeah, it’s been an unreasonably long time and I’ve been dreading writing one of those I’m back/excuses, excuses posts that I don’t particularly enjoy reading myself, but here we are. I’ve thought about you a whole lot over the last few months. I thought of you when I went on a trip to LA, while I moved from the east back to the west, while I made (and am still making) a ridiculous amount of felt Christmas crafts. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said ‘yeah, hopefully I’ll blog that at some point’ or the number of ‘to post’ folders I have neatly organized on my laptop (at least I have the organized thing going for me!). If you are interested in the list of excuses, all I can say is: finals, moving, job hunting, working, more job hunting, travel, family and so much family (it’s been awesome being back home again!). Something has definitely been missing from my life though, and I’m feeling really giddy writing this! Like, I actually got butterflies uploading these photos…eye-rolling at myself.

Speaking of butterflies, I finally made myself sit down and blog because I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma/doubt fest regarding my first love – mac & cheese. It’s just been so long since I’ve had really, really good mac & cheese and it’s been extremely disappointing. Of course, this is really all my own fault because I haven’t made it from scratch since these pictures were taken…well back when it was still sunny at dinnertime. I have to admit that boxed macaroni is a definite guilty pleasure of mine. Every time I buy a box I shove it to the bottom of my basket and hope that there’s a self-checkout. I know I’ve mentioned that my brother is my partner in novelty food tasting crime and we’ve been pretty into tasting all the weird macaroni flavors lately. None of them have been very good and I started to wonder if I had lost my taste for this stuff. After all, I used to absolutely hate it as a child. Yep, my tastes have become more childlike over the years. Paul quickly pointed out to me that I probably just need to have some homemade again. Ding, ding. That must be it. And so, this post is here to serve as inspiration for myself and any of you stuck in an unfortunate mac & cheese rut. I am remembering how wonderful and beautiful this recipe was and I think mac & cheese and I might be able to forego couples counseling. Phew. Thank you gruyere, thank you bacon, and thank YOU, for reading this and for not judging me too harshly 😉

DSC_3712DSC_3714Sharing naked photos of your significant other online is wrong, isn’t it? Oops.DSC_3730        Fully clothed. DSC_3722 DSC_3730 DSC_3733

Philly Cheese Steak Night

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My homemade baguettes strike again! Just like the caprese sandwiches, I wanted to make something fairly simple so that we could really enjoy the fresh bread. I also just love how cool I feel slinging my spatula around while grilling the meat and veggies. Maybe I should get a job at a food court?? That would actually be pretty sweet, but I think I would tire of smelling like onions and shopping mall every day…I used the first recipe that came up in a google search for a guide and then kind of did my own thing. I didn’t melt the provolone into a sauce, but I’m sure that would be amazing and I totally forgot that I bought mushrooms to add! I hate when that happens. I think it turned out for the best though since the bread is what made this particular sandwich extra special. Next time I gotta try the melty cheese sauce!

PS this is my 101st post! How cool is that?! I totally missed it when I posted number 100!

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Caprese Sandwiches on Homemade Bread!

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Last weekend we stumbled across a delightful bakery/cafe called the South End Buttery. I saw the word buttery in the distance and knew I had to see what was up. We loved the design of the place and all the treats looked great. I was starving and grabbed a simple caprese sandwich without really expecting much…but it was so delicious! It made me think about how much good ingredients can make a difference in certain dishes. When it’s composed of just four things, quality ingredients make it shine. This is a sandwich that’s pretty hard to mess up, so I could tell they must be using good stuff. The bread was just perfect and I loved how they used a whole skinny baguette – easier to eat and cute! So, I decided then and there that I would attempt to make my own homemade baguettes. Eek! That’s something that has always scared me. Anything with yeast has kind of always scared me. I’ll post most about the actual bread making later, since this is sandwich week. But, spoiler alert: it was a success! The homemade bread and fresh basil made this simple classic even better. And perfect for an evening dinner in the park!

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anim_da234c51-9c42-9414-1536-68a25ee4807dSimple as 1…2…3

Sandwich Week – Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

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What are two people supposed to do with an entire roasted chicken?? It’s a little bit too much for just two people, but this turned out to be a great way to revive the leftovers! I’m always trying to get Paul to give me hints or ideas about weekday lunches. He usually says anything I make will be good, but one day he said “I know…maybe you could make buffalo chicken sandwiches?” Done! I shredded some of our leftover roast chicken from dinner and put together these  sandwiches. I really like making homemade wings, but these were 100 times easier. I basically tossed some hot sauce/wing sauce with the shredded chicken and topped it with ranch. Plus, coleslaw either on the side or on top! Just a simple idea for leftover chicken, but oh so great for a mid-week work lunch!

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Sandwich Week – Salmon Club Sandwich

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It’s sandwich week on BepCity! Liz Lemon really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to sandwiches. Everyone just wants a sandwich! I have noticed an overflow of sandwich pictures in my photo library over the past month or so and they are all coming at you during this very special week. I’m starting off with one that has been a definite crowd pleaser. I made this once for Paul and once for my whole family. Paul said it was the best sandwich he’s ever had and my mom repeated the recipe a few weeks later. And I thought it was really good too! The sandwich in the pictures was made using three (small) slices of bread and bacon, based on this recipe. It’s basically a BLT with red pepper mayo on the bottom layer, and grilled salmon with a little more mayo on the top later. I’ve also made it with just two slices and no bacon and I promise it’s still great! And healthier too…

So, take my advice, and Liz Lemon’s, just eat this sandwich.

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Just matching my food, no big deal.

Tiny Food Party!

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In case you didn’t know, I’m one of those people that loves things in miniature. And tiny food is pretty much at the top of my ‘things that are cuter in miniature’ list. A few years ago Paul and I had a daylong obsession with buying these themed sets of tiny plastic food. They came in a little set with maybe 5 different types of food. My favorites were the carnival set with funnel cake and snow cones and a fast food breakfast set that even came with the styrofoam tray and to-go lid. So funny! And the part that really sucked us in was that they came in a mystery box so you didn’t know which set you were getting. We bought one each at Urban Outfitters, opened them right outside the store and I think promptly went back inside and bought two more. I can’t remember what they were called and I can’t find them online, but maybe I’ll dig them up and take some photos when I’m back in Colorado! If you have any idea what I’m talking about, please let me know!

Ok, so tiny plastic food is awesome, but tiny real food is of course, even better. As I mentioned in the mac and cheese bites post, we had a tiny food party when I was home and it was so much fun. We all had at least one dish to make – even our brother put together the lovely caprese skewers! It’s always extra fun when everyone is assembling together. We used the Tiny Food Party book for the skewers, mac and cheese bites, crab cake sliders, and mini chicken and waffles. Yes, MINI CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! Can you believe it? Not only is it the cutest thing ever, but they were really delicious and a lot more convenient to eat. Our grocery store was out of mini waffles, so we just cut regular ones into smaller circles. I seriously can’t get enough of this book. I’m sure you will be seeing it make some more appearances in the future! How do you feel about miniature food? Cute or just annoying??

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Coconut Cream Ombre Rosette Cake

DSC_3996File this one under Mom’s Corner! I had basically nothing to do with this one other than the fact that it was made for my sister’s and my birthday. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I stirred the coconut cream for like 10 minutes straight! Ha, I can weasel my way into any accomplishment. But really, it’s pretty amazing that my mom took the time to make this because we had just finished making 200 cupcakes for a wedding two days before. It was super fun and I’ll probably post more on it later, but also kind of tortuous because I didn’t get to try one of the coconut cream cupcakes that everyone, and especially my brother, kept raving about. I missed out on the cupcake tasting and we had no extras. I tried each components separately and knew they were delicious, but mom said that wasn’t enough (yay!). She recreated the cupcakes into this beautiful, pink, girly masterpiece. Seriously, thank goodness she did. It really lived up to the hype. Luckily, she had been wanting to attempt an ombre rosette cake for a while – I think it turned out so cute (and the cut slices look like hearts)! The recipes she uses are down below. I included her notes for high altitude bakers since it has worked so well for her! It’s her go-to, especially for cupcakes.

Thanks mom for the beautiful cake and for always giving us such special birthdays!! DSC_3991 DSC_3994DSC_3999 DSC_4002 DSC_4017

Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa sifted
1 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 cups sugar  (remove one tablespoon for high altitude)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved. Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps. Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed in. Divide into two cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F (375 for high altitude) for about 30 minutes or until done. Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Cream (Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch
1/2-1 cup of toasted coconut

Mix all ingredients, except toasted coconut, together and mix well.  Cook all ingredients together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thicken. Add the toasted coconut, if using, after the pudding has cooled.

Coconut Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp coconut extract

Beat the butter and half the confectioners’ sugar until smooth; add half the coconut milk, then the rest, and the extract, and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, beating until you have a spreadable frosting. Cool completely before frosting.

Assembly

Spread coconut cream on top of the bottom layer (For an extra touch, add a small layer of chocolate buttercream too). Place the second cake on top of the coconut cream. Frost entire cake with coconut frosting.

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