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]

Colorado Cocktail Taste Test

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Last night after a girly day of shopping, grilled cheese, crafts, and pizza (we are the classiest of girls) we had an impromptu Colorado cocktail taste test hosted by dad (of ‘Dad’s Corner‘ fame). He’s been practicing his bar tending skills over the past few months, so when my sister saw 5280’s poll for the official Colorado state cocktail, she knew he would be game to try at least one. Of course, Dad can’t say no to a challenge so he concocted our own in-home, four person contest between all three. Like I mentioned, I wasn’t expecting to end my night this way, which means that I did not have my regular camera to take lovely pictures! We did our best though. We had a sample size of each drink and picked our own winner/s. Check out our thoughts on all three drinks below! Spoiler alert: YUM.

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Kevin Burke’s “The 4th Pin”bitters, Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur, Whiskey, orange peel.

Dad: offered the most traditional western drink…like when Colorado was an old cow town.

Mom: liked the complex herbal flavors

KT: definitely strong but was pretty good. I liked that I could taste the bitters towards the bottom.

Bepcity: really nice layering of flavors. I don’t always do well with strong drinks, but I really enjoyed this one.

20140209-115852.jpgAlexandra Parks’ “Central Slope Sour”: Lemon juice, honey, Three Pins Herbal Liqueur, Breckenridge Bourbon, Avery IPA

Dad: Becky and her man hands squeezed too much lemon…but still really good.

Mom: really liked the honey and lemon! Would be great on a hot summer day.

KT: liked it best because of the tart lemon juice! It was definitely sour! But again, the herbal liquor added something unique.

Bepcity: loved it! I just felt happy drinking this. The perfect, summery glass of lemonade with a kick.

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Sean Kenyon’s “The Centennial Smash”: Palisade peach, mint, Colorado honey, bourbon, Three Pins Alpine Herb Liqueur

Dad: I think I added too much bourbon…this one needs a second chance.

Mom: thought this would be my favorite, but it was my least…wonder if it would be better when palisade peaches are in season to get more fresh peach taste.

KT: I agree with mom. Felt very summery.

Bepcity: I liked the subtle peach and mint flavor, but agree we should give it another shot.

THE VERDICT

All great contenders for a Colorado cocktail! The girls all agreed that the Central Slope Sour was our favorite while Dad picked The 4th Pin as his favorite. We all expected to like the Centennial Smash best, but it was everyone’s least favorite – possibly due to our own lack of in season peaches. I think we will definitely be trying it again this summer! All three used Leopold & Bros Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur, which is really cool stuff. Highly recommend you take a look at 5280’s post, which has videos of each bartender making their entry. Even if you’re not in Colorado, it was fun to have a little tasting party of these tasty drinks that will get you pumped for summer! I love you, Colorado!

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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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.

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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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…

I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog! And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to Pass the Curds for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!

We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!

DSC_4006First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better. DSC_4009Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)DSC_4032Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this. DSC_4039Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem. DSC_4040 DSC_4041Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly! DSC_4043See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg. DSC_4048And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated. DSC_4050And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.DSC_4068Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen. DSC_4073Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!

Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)

Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!

For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For Frying
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish.  Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).

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Shrimp Tacos with Coleslaw and Avocado

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This post is partially brought to you by Captain Rob! I was all set to buy the tiny (er, shrimpy? heh) shrimp when Captain Rob enthusiastically introduced himself and cut me a (way too generous) deal on the jumbo shrimp if I promised to keep coming back. Duh, Captain Rob! I’m in. Since I was actually planning on just using the shrimpy shrimp, I got two meals out of these. Double thanks to Captain Rob! When I was planning my shopping list I decided that shrimp tacos sounded like the quintessential summer dish. Super colorful, light, and fresh. But, I gotta be honest – my primary reason for making these tacos was because I thought they would be fun to photograph. Eek! I knew my new camera lens was arriving soon and I was already excitedly planning my next kitchen photo sessions. The lens arrived right as I was about to leave for the store, so I was psyched. And then Captain Rob made my trip even more exciting. Ha! The tacos were perfect for enjoying a beautiful summer evening (as much as we can without a balcony, boo) and they went very nicely with my mint cherry limeades! And easy too – seasoned shrimp (paprika is good) + coleslaw + avocado + (optional) tomatoes. A little lime and mint helps this pair even better with the cherry limeades. Loving the summer food and loving my new lens! Second shrimp dish to come soon!

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