Mini-Cakes for Jessica’s Virtual Shower

In just a few weeks my super sweet friend Jessica, from My Baking Heart, will be tying the knot with her fiance, Chris. She’s obviously a smart girl, because October is THE best time to get married. 🙂 To honor the beautiful bride-to-be, our friend Nikki, from Pennies on a Platter, organized a virtual bridal shower, and I couldn’t be more excited to participate!


(How ridiculously cute is this couple?! Click the picture to see even more of their unique engagement photo shoot)

Jessica is a Southern Belle and one of the most genuinely sweet ladies out there! One thing I really love about her is that she is just as passionate about cooking and baking as she is about football at her alma mater, TCU (Texas Christian University). When deciding what to make for her shower I wanted to tie together all of my favorite things about her! Something sweet, dainty, and, of course, purple!

The mini-cakes I decided on are like a cross between petit fours and Little Debbie zebra cakes. I decided to coat them with white chocolate ganache instead of poured fondant because…well, it just tastes better (and reminds me of zebra cakes, an old childhood lunch favorite!).  I won’t promise you that the white chocolate was much less work than poured fondant, but the taste was worth it in the end.

Congratulations, Jessica!! I am so happy for you and wish you a lifetime of happiness! To see what other bloggers made for this special occasion check out the round-up on Nikki and Jessica’s blogs!

 

 

Foodbuzz 24×24: East Meets West

Since moving to China we have been blown away by the kindness and hospitality we have been shown. In the short time that we have lived here, we feel like we have made many life-long friends. Now that we are settled into our apartment, we wanted to have our new friends over to celebrate good friendship and our new home. An East meets West celebration.

The stars couldn’t have aligned more perfectly for this event.  First, I was excited to have my idea chosen by Foodbuzz for this months 24×24*! Second, the weekend we chose for our party also happened to be a holiday weekend in China. So, in addition to celebrating friends and home, we were celebrating Dragon Boat Festival (Duānwǔ Jié 端午节)!
 
*Each month Foodbuzz showcases 24 food bloggers as they host a meal in the same 24 hours and blog about it on the same day.

My idea for the party was to create a fusion of American/Western dishes and Chinese/Eastern dishes. I supplied all of the Western dishes and, with the help of a friend, two of the Chinese dishes. I was also delighted when guests offered to bring traditional dishes. Here’s what we came up with! Full menu listed below the photos!

The Food

 

 
 
 
The party
The guests – minus the two people who snuck past my camera!
Guests filling up their plates!
Happy to have been a part of his first chocolate chip cookie
Jesse being shown how to open the traditional Dragon Boat Festival dumpling – 粽子
Sneaking some fruit
Full bellies, enjoying the entertainment

The Menu

Veggies and Ranch Dip
Chips
Macaroni and Cheese Bites
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Steamed Pork with Preserved Vegetables* 冬菜猪肉
Braised Duck in Beer* 红烧
Rice Dumplings* 粽子
 Lychee and other assorted fruits
*These items were brought by my guests (and the translation may be rough!)
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the party was a big success! I can’t wait to host my next party!

Buffalo Chicken Bites

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We landed back in San Diego late last night and I’m hoping that now that our holiday travels are coming to a close, I can get back to blogging a regular basis. More importantly I hope that I can get back in the kitchen and spend some quality time with my cutting board, skillet, and stove. 🙂

While we were in Ohio I really only had one chance to get in the kitchen and cook. I made these buffalo chicken bites for my dad’s family Christmas Eve party. I was lucky to get one decent picture before my dad swooped in and started stealing them, and they were totally gone not long after his first stolen bite.

With New Years Eve coming up and playoff/Super Bowl parties, you might find yourself looking for an appetizer, and I HIGHLY recommend these. Spicy and creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside. Also easy to grab, dunk, and eat while socializing or watching a football game. Win, win, win. And if you still need convincing, these can be made ahead of time and frozen or kept in the fridge.

Buffalo Chicken Bites

Ingredients
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (About 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin discarded)
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot sauce – to taste (I used Frank’s Buffalo Sauce)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp ranch or bleu cheese dressing
1 3/4 cups sharp or medium shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup all-purpose flour*
3eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 cups Corn Flakes cereal, crushed

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl stir together the cream cheese, hot sauce, and ranch (or bleu cheese). Add the chicken, cheddar cheese, and green onions, stir to combine. For larger bites, use a medium cookie scoop to create even portions. For smaller bites roll 1 heaping tablespoon into a ball. Place the rounded portions on a cookie sheet. For easier coating, refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Place the flour, egg, and crushed corn flakes in three separate bowls. Roll each ball in the flour*, shake off any excess flour and dip in the egg, then roll the ball in the cornflake crumbs until evenly coated. Place back on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with ranch or bleu cheese dipping sauce.

The coated balls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for later. To freeze, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet and place in a freezer bag for storage. When ready to use them, place the frozen balls on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

* I TOTALLY forgot to roll mine in the flour, they still came out just fine. The purpose of the flour is to help the corn flake coating adhere a little better. It’s your call to use the flour or to omit.

Yields 2 dozen larger bites or 3 dozen smaller bites

Slightly adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Food Network and as seen on Macaroni and Cheesecake and Made by Melissa

Soft Pretzel Bites

I don’t think anyone will be more excited about this post than my dad. You see, last year, while I was living with my parents waiting to move to California, I made these pretzels to take to a friends house for some serious football watching. My dad had been telling me he wanted to learn how to bake bread and when he saw (and tasted) these he immediately said, “When can you teach me how to make these?!” I think he managed to wait 2 days before demanding to give them a try. Since that day he mentions “making pretzels” anytime we talk about food or cooking (which if you know me, you know happens often). And I know he was jealous when my sister and I told him we made them for Bayday during her visit.

When I taught my dad, I twisted the pretzels into sticks, but for Bayday Emilie and I cut them into bite size pieces that are perfect for snacking. I don’t know if that was a good idea or bad idea. These pretzels are already addicting, but when you can just pop one in your mouth any time you think about/see/smell them, you’re in trouble. They’re just that good. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!! (And as a bonus I’m including my recipe for Super Easy Beer Cheese, a-maz-ing with the preztels)

Soft Pretzel Bites

(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp butter, melted that has been cooled
Kosher salt, for topping
Parchment paper and cooking spray

Directions

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside. (Mixture should become foamy, if it doesn’t your yeast may be bad or your water too hot)

In the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugars, and salt on low speed. Turn off the mixer and pour the water/yeast mixture and melted butter into the bowl. Turn the mixer on and knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry you can add extra water, a tablespoon at a time.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour (*or until double in size).

Towards the end of rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 12 even portions. Now you can pick your shape. For pretzel bites roll each portion into a snake then cut the snake into bite size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches in width.

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet (sometimes I dab the pretzels with a paper towel if they seem too wet). Brush each pretzel bite with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I always let my dough rise in the (off) oven with the light on.

Beer Cheese Dip

(Sunny Side Up original)

Ingredients

6 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup good quality beer
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2-3/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Microwave cream cheese for 30-45 seconds until very soft. Stir in the beer, horseradish, and garlic powder. Microwave again for 30-45 seconds. Add the grated cheese and stir until smooth, microwaving again if necessary.