Sunday, June 29

MAKE IT: Little Debbie Zebra Cakes

Little Debbie Zebra Cakes are a staple of the snack cake world, lite and spongy these cakes are filled with a sugary vanilla frosting and coated in a thin layer of white chocolate frosting. Easily recognized by the chocolate drizzle zebra striping, these cakes pack a perfect punch in a tiny package. 

Admittedly mine are only half covered in the white chocolate coating but, for the full "copycat" look and flavor, you can easily dip both top and bottom. Make up a batch of these little snack and watch them disappear!

Full time 2 hours (includes cooling and setting, if dipping both sides add on 30 minutes) 
Makes 12 cakes

The needs-

Cake Bit:
Yellow cake mix (homemade or store bought) 
Ingredients to make the cake

2 cup confectionery sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup marshmallow cream
1-3 tbsp half and half
1 tsp vanilla

White Chocolate Frosting:
16 oz whites chocolate chips
1/4 cup vegetable shortening

Chocolate Drizzle:
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2-4 tbsp butter

The know-

Preheat your oven to 325' and mix cake batter according to package or recipe.

If you do not have a snack cake pan also known as a brownie bar pan, you can use a jelly roll pan to create the right thickness of cake you will need.

Bake cake for 18-22 minutes or until it springs bake when touched with finger, jelly roll pans may need a little more time.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 5-8 minutes.

Flip out of pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Once completely cooled, carefully slice off any excess from the top to create a flat layer.

To create filling, melt shortening and place it in a medium mixing bowl.

Whisk in marshmallow cream, it will take a bit of work to get this going, until smooth.

Whisk in vanilla.

Whisk in confectionery to create a paste.

Add in 1 tbsp of half and half to create a very thick dough-like texture.

Add in 1 tsp of half and half at a time until, the mixture is thick but pliable.

Place filling into a pastry bag or plastic zip bag, snip off end and gently insert tip into the cut side of the cake.

Insert roughly 2/3 into cake and gently squeeze. The goal is to not burst through the other side, but have a nice filled inside.

I do this by inserting in the four corners and middle (see below)

Once all your cakes are filled, you can begin the frosting layer.

Place shortening into a shallow sauce pan and melt gently over medium low heat.

Once melted turn off heat, but leave on burner.

Stir in white chocolate chips and keep stirring until smooth and soft in texture.

Dip cakes half way into frosting, I like to dip the end that is cut, it gives it a cleaner finish.

Place dipped cake onto wire rack to allow excess to drip off.

If you are going to dip both sides, allow this side to set before dipping second side. Repeat this process on remaining side.

If you are like me and are only dipping half the cake you can move on.

Once all cakes are dipped, spoon remaining frosting over center of each cake to fully cover the top (and have some extra to drip and cover sides).

Allow frosting to set for at least 30 minutes before you continue.

Once these have set, you can do the drizzle bit.

Place 1 tbsp of butter into a small sauce pan and melt over medium low heat. Once melted turn off heat but, leave on burner.

Add in chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.

Add in remaining butter 1/2 tbsp at a time, stirring extremely well after each addition.

Lift up spoon gently after each additional butter bit has been added, if chocolate is beginning to run so it can be drizzled, do not add in remaining butter.

Drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cakes using spoon in a light back and forth motion.

Allow chocolate to set for at least 20-30 minutes, I like to set mine in the refrigerator to ensure full setting.


Friday, June 27

HOW TO: Easily Frost and Decorate a Two-Layer Cake

Frosting cakes can seam like an intimidating task but, to be honest it really is not. There are a few tricks that are easily learned along the way to help make this task a little less intimidating. I am going to share these tips and tricks with you today.

First, remember you are a home based cook. Your most likely not in an industrial kitchen, you probably do not own all the fancy tools, and you probably do not need to frost a cake everyday? After all, who does? I say this because, your cake will not look picture perfect from a box, but it will look really close.

To do this you are going to need the following:

  1. 2  round 8-9" cakes
  2. 4-5 cups frosting, for filling and covering
  3. 1/2-3/4 cup frosting, for writing if desired
  4. 18 berries, candy pieces, sugar flowers, or any edible decoration your would like which is roughly 1/2" in size.
  5. 2 large zip bags or pastry bags
  6. Large flat spatula 

Let us start with tip number one: Make sure you frost a completely cooled cake. Not cold, but completely cool, it should feel nice a cool to the touch.

Make sure you take the time to level the cake, use a long serrated knife and work evenly and carefully. Cut the cake right across the surface where the edges even out. Cutting across to remove the domed top.

Remove the top and put it aside, you will not need it. Feel free to enjoy eating it while you frost.

Place one of these cakes onto a round, edge free plate or cake board.

Spread 1 1/2 cup frosting across the surface of the cake in an even layer.

Tip number two: place second cake top side down onto the filling. You will get less crumbs and flaking if you do this.

Spread another 1 1/2 cups frosting evenly across the surface of the cake, making sure to work the excess frosting to the edges.

Place large dollops of frosting around the edges of the cake, use 1 cup to do this.

Tip number three: spin the plate/cake not the spatula. Hold the spatula with a firm grip in place and rotate the plate.

Place the spatula 1/4" away from the cake and turn the cake to spread the frosting evenly around the outside of the cake.

Tip four: fingers are okay.

Use you finger and gently run around the edge to flatten out any frosting that bubbled up.

Place remaining cup of frosting into your zip bag or frosting bag.

Tip five: you do not need frosting tips, just really sharp scissors.

Cut the tip or corner off of the bag. Care fully cut a slit 1/8" long into the edge and then rotate and cut in the opposite direction. You should have a + shape.

Squeeze 18 1/2" high dollops of frosting around the cake.

Press your berries (or other decorative piece) onto each dollop.

 You can be done here or if you want to write on it you can.

Tip six: toothpicks make great decorating tools.

If you are going to write on the cake, trace out the words lightly with a toothpick. This way, if your off on spacing it is easily fixable.

Place your writing frosting into the second bag and cut just the very tip off, so you have a thin line of frosting.

Trace over the outline of the words with the frosting.

And your done! Enjoy your new cake decorating tricks. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 25

MAKE IT: Old El Paso Taco Seasoning

Taco night? Cannot find your taco seasoning packet or just want to make your own? Here is the perfect blend of herbs and spices to create a flavorful seasoning better then store bought packets.

Full time 5-8 minutes
Makes 1 batch seasoning (easily multiples) seal and store for up to 2 months!

The needs-

2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried cilantro
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

The know-

In a small sealable container place all ingredients.

Seal and shake container well.

Done! Store or use and cheers!

Monday, June 23

HOW TO: Make Korean Noodle Bowls

Noodle Bowls are one of the easiest and greatest thing to learn how to make. Just by changing around a few key ingredients, you have have endless possibilities. Noodle bowls cook up fast, are hearty, are very impressive to serve, and can be made with limited funds. This fantastic staple of the Korean culinary world can be your new favorite weeknight or anytime dish.

First lets start with the four major elements of building a noodle bowl:
1) Noodles: this is a "noodle bowl" after all. You can get several types of noodles on the market, rice, egg, or for great cost savings use angel hair pasta! Any of these will work just fine, the heavier and thicker the noodle the heavier the heartiness of the dish.
2) Protein: every bowl has to have a protein. One of the key factors in the noodle bowls, is the balanced meal aspect. A protein helps round out this dish. It can be chicken, beef, pork, seafood, tofu, or even fried eggs.
3) Sauce: homemade, bottled, elaborate or simple, really does not matter. You just need a sauce of some sort. The most simple sauce would be equal amounts of vegetable stock to soy sauce. Just be creative terriayki, hosin, ginger, anthything goes.

4) Vegetables: this is the majority of a noodle bowl. Vegetables act as not only fillet but, they create textural differences, visual appeal, and well rounded healthiness. 

Now that we have our elements defined lets see what we will need to create this yummy meal for four.

You will need:

1 lb noodles of your choice (you will need to prepare these according to package instructions while cooking remaining ingredients)

1 lb protein of your choice, cut into this slices roughly 1/4" thick and 1 1/2"- 2" long
4 cups mixed vegetables, chopped and sliced. A few notes: mushroom cook longer so do not mix them in if using, I am using shallots, carrots, celery, and peppers, a very common blend.
2 1/2-3 cups sauce (I am using sweet chili sauce)
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water 
8 tbsp butter, in 2 tbsp increments
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Now let us begin:

Begin to prepare your noodles according to package another words, start your water boiling and go from there.

Chop and mix your vegetables in a large bowl and set 2 tbsp aside with them.

Clean mushrooms, if using and set aside 2 tbsp of butter with them.

Make sure protein is cleaned and slice, set 2 tbsp of butter aside with it.

Once all your elements are gathered, we can begin.

In a large deep sauté pan or wok, heat 2 tbsp butter for mushroom and vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat. 

Cook mushrooms for 5-8 minutes or until they are beginning to get soft and golden.

Add vegetables and 2 tbsp butter into the pan, cooking for an additional 5-8 minutes are until all vegetables are soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Move vegetables into a bowl and set aside for now.

By now your noodles should be cooked and you will want to drain them. Save at minimum 1 cup water just in case they get sticky latter.

Add 2 tbsp butter and 1 1/2 cups sauce into the noodles, mix them well, and set aside.

Back to the other pan, add remaining 2 tbsp of butter into the pan and allow it to melt down.

Add in your protein and cook thoroughly.

Once protein is cooked completely, add the vegetables back into the pan along with 1 cup sauce and cook until vegetables are heated back to a nice hot temperature.

Time to plate and serve, start with putting a nice pile of noodles into the bottom of a deep bowl. If they got sticky, add a tiny bit of the reserved water and stir them up to loosen them.

Add a nice heaping scoop of proteins and vegetables.

Drizzle remaining sauce across the top, serve and cheers!