Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw Salad

I love Vietnamese salads. Growing up, there were two in particular that we often ate that I absolutely loved: the rice roll salad and the coleslaw salad. We ate the coleslaw salad more often just because it was simpler and cheaper to make. After making chicken stock with pieces of chicken and bones, we would tear off the meat and set it aside for a coleslaw salad. My parents would then manually shave green and red cabbages and carrots for the salad. I remember doing this for them and it took forever! It always resulted in way too much coleslaw too.

When I moved out and started making my own, I bought cabbages and manually shaved them as well. Lol. Then I realized it was simply ridiculous since we could never eat that much. It was also a waste of time so I started to buy the coleslaw packages at the store. Yes, stores sell them all ready for you! And they aren't very expensive either. I remember when my parents came over and I made the salad for them. I saw my mom examining the coleslaw package I was using and then showing my dad. Yes mom. They sell them already for you! And when they are on sale they can be just $1 a bag! Awesome, right?!! It's not as fresh buying them from packages but it's definitely the best way to go here. I urged my parents to just buy the packages as well. It might have made more sense doing it manually when we had everyone at home to eat lots of food but now my parents are only cooking for themselves.

It's funny when I think about eating at home while growing up. Everything was so manual and labor intensive. I guess my parents were so used to doing things the long and hard way in Vietnam that they didn't bother looking for shortcuts available to them in Canada. We would buy raw peanuts and roast them ourselves at home. I remember being sent outside in our vegetable garden and blowing and stirring the peanuts to remove the skins on them. Again, it just took forever. One day, my mom told me that we don't have to do that anymore because they sell already roasted and skinless peanuts at the store. Lol.

I'm obsessed with candied bacon lately so naturally, I had to throw some in :)

So the recipe I'm about to share consists of both store bought coleslaw and roasted nuts. Save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just buy coleslaw and nuts! Normally, I use peanuts in this recipe but since I didn't have any at home, I just used almonds. I love this salad because every crunchy bite you take is sweet and salty and just full of flavor from all the raw vegetables and nuts. It's definitely different than a lot of salads out there, which is something I love about it. I make a lot of salads now, including a lot of French salads. This refreshing Vietnamese chicken coleslaw salad is still one of my favorites. My husband and 4 year old loves it too :)

Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw Salad
Serves 4

1 package coleslaw (16oz)
3/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 cup shredded chicken meat


garlic oil (pressed garlic fried in a lot of oil)
fish sauce dressing (Nuoc Mam)


candied bacon (optional)
crushed nuts

Toss together coleslaw, mint, and chicken in large salad bowl. Serve each plate with around 1 cup of this mix. Spoon over 1 tbsp garlic/oil, 2-3 tbsp fish sauce dressing and then top with 1 tbsp candied bacon (if using) and 1 tbsp crushed nuts. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anatomy of the Perfect Nutella Cupcake

If I haven't already mentioned it, Nutella cupcakes are definitely one of my favorite cupcakes. I have made cupcakes and cakes out of this thing so many times I have lost count. It is somewhat of a specialty cake so I do save it for special occasions. For instance I made them at my son's 3rd birthday party, for Christmas, for Valentines, for when our long time friend came to eat with us etc. I don't like to be boring though so each time the icing or decoration would be a bit different.

The Nutella cake alone is delicious but with icing, it's a-ma-zing! Even when I messed up and completely forgot to put the egg yolks in, it still tasted good. Lol. A bit oily and weird but still good :) When I ran out of rum, I made it without and it also tasted great! So don't worry about the rum. It doesn't make a huge difference if you leave it out ;)

Nutella cake and cupcakes are great with ganache, swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate swiss meringue buttercream, fondant etc. You can't really go wrong with this cake. Unless you burn the cake, of course :) My favorite used to be with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream but recently, I mixed up a nutella swiss meringue buttercream that I just fell in love with. Omg. It tasted like heaven. It had a tint of Nutella flavor in it and was much lighter in color, compared to the chocolate buttercream. The frosting was a beautiful contrast on top of the dark cupcake. It was sweet, but not overly sweet, and was slightly salty from the Nutella. I can't wait to make this again! It basically follows the swiss meringue buttercream method but I sort of half-ed the butter, half-ed the sugar, then added maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cups of Nutella. Something like that (?). Haha. I am such a hacker. If you are interested in a detailed recipe for this frosting, let me know in the comments below and I can measure out and write it down next time ;) This frosting would be excellent on other types of cake as well. Or even cookies! I tried a Nutella cloud frosting once and it was ridiculously sweet. Sorry Sweetapolita :( It looked beautiful and it came from a trusted source but I really don't like desserts that are too sweet. Again, I grew up eating Chinese sponge cakes with lots of fruit and whip cream :)

Recently, our out of town friend came to visit us. She stayed with us for two days and I wanted to shower her with great food and desserts. Like any good host would, you know? :) My friend is great and she's always great to us as well. She bought our 4 year old a Star Wars Lego and instantly became his BFF. Lol. I cooked Vietnamese for her this time and for dessert, I made Nutella cupcakes. She never had mine before so I just couldn't resist. They actually turned out to be remarkably perfect that I decided to make a blog post out of them. When my friend saw them for the first time, she told me that I should open up a cupcake shop because they looked amazing. To that, my usual response was "yeah, yeah but no." But I love her for saying that :)

Mommy's little helper hard at work.

So what constitutes the perfect Nutella cupcake? In my opinion, it needs to meet a certain cake to frosting ratio, and have a good balance of nuts and chocolate. The cake needs to be moist but still hold it together after each bite. It needs to look appealing and taste so spectacular that you wouldn't even care how many calories were in it. Lol. It's funny because when I first tweeted this cupcake, I concluded the tweet with "5000 calories." Every response I got was that it looked great and would be worth every calorie. Honestly, what would be worst than ingesting 5000 calories for something that tasted bad? Oh, I would cry.

My perfect Nutella cupcake contains cake, chocolate swiss meringue buttercream center, Nutella swiss meringue buttercream top, ganache, and a ferrero rocher chocolate ball. It sounds like a lot but with the right proportion together we have achieved the perfect marriage of hazelnut, chocolate and buttercream. And really it's just a medium size cupcake so you'll always have room for it ;)

Bonus: It's GLUTEN-FREE! My friend and I were talking about gluten free bakes since she bought some from Victoria to take back to a friend in California. She raved about how great they were and that she couldn't believe they were gluten-free. That got be thinking and then after looking at all the ingredients and reading the back of labels, I told her that my Nutella cupcakes, without the chocolate ball, were gluten-free too. If you are allergic to gluten or on a gluten-free diet, remove the ball and all is good! They definitely aren't vegan but hooray for being gluten-free cupcakes!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Candied Bacon Chocolate Spoons

When I started making cookies, I bought a few cookie cutters. Then a few more. Then LOTS more. It's gotten to the point where I'm having trouble keeping track of all my cookie cutters.

Then came cupcake and cake making. I bought a few sprinkles, then a few more. Now I have an endless supply of sprinkles. Whenever I'm at a baking store though, I am still checking out sprinkles to see if I can add anything to my collection. I'm nuts, right?!

Now comes chocolate making. I became interested in making my own chocolate bars after going to my first chocolate tasting class here in Vancouver. Soon after, we went to France and Italy. It was in Tuscany that I visited the Amedei factory and bought their award winning chocolate. Before leaving France, I bought my first chocolate molds. When I came back home to Canada, I bought some more. I'm probably at about a dozen different molds now! I'm always on the lookout for more molds I can use for chocolate. I'm sure it won't be too hard for me to grow this collection too. Lol.

A month or so ago, my Mother-in-Law in France sent me a couple of new chocolate molds. I was so excited! I didn't have an excuse to make chocolate then but now I do. Well, sort of. Our friend from California is visiting us this weekend and I wanted to make her a chocolate gift. That's a good enough reason, right? :)

Remember my new obsession with candied bacon? This month may be grilled cheese month but it mind as well be candied bacon month as well. I just can't stop with this stuff! The crazy thing is that it's so simple to make as well. Buy bacon, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake. Done!

Candied bacon.

I used to think bacon chocolate was yucky but once I tried it for the first time at my chocolate tasting, I actually loved it. Now that I have made candied bacon, it was time to finally try making my own bacon chocolate. I took extra care in baking my bacon this time. I wanted them crispy and dry as possible. I started baking them for about 8-10 minutes first. Then I poured out the fat. Before putting it back into the oven, I sprinkled on some brown sugar. Then I baked them some more. I poured out more fat at the end and then drained them on paper towels. I also manually dabbed each piece of bacon with paper towel to remove as much grease as possible. When they were as dry as possible, I cut them as small as I could with a big strong knife. My bacon bits were then ready to use as toppings for my chocolate spoons :)

Tempering chocolate.

My 4yo at work.

60% dark chocolate sprinkled with candied bacon bits and gold candy.

Packaged chocolate spoon gifts.

It was a big chocolate making day. My 4yo decorated spoons for his little cousins. I also went ahead and made mini candied bacon chocolate bars. Why the heck not, right? The mini tablette bar mold was also new from France. I used candy wrap on a few of them and made my own wrapping paper out of card stock. I chose a simple design since they were so mini. They weren't perfect but they were still adorable :) These individually wrapped chocolates are all for my friend! She may just hate me though since she's watching her weight too. Ahem. I barely see her and I want her to try these so does that make me an evil friend? Sorry.

DIY wrapping using designed stock paper and glue.

Mini candied bacon dark chocolate bars.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bacon Spinach Tomato (B.S.T) Grilled Cheese Sandwich

B.S.T - Bacon Spinach Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Did you know that April is "Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month?" I didn't know until I went on Pinterest. There are all sorts of grilled cheeses popping up and everyone is talking about April being grilled cheese sandwich month. Who knew I would actually get my news from Pinterest :)

In honor of this special month, I decided to make us panini for dinner. Panini are really just fancy grilled cheese sandwiches after all :) Even though this was a last minute decision, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. The idea came to me after I made a batch of bacon candy. Bacon candy! Omg. There are few recipes that you know will be instant hits even before you make them. This was one of them. It had a stellar list of ingredients. Dutch oven bread. Delicious, no matter what you do with it. Almond pesto. Delicious, no matter what you use it in. And did I mention bacon candy?! I think bacon candy might just be my new obsession. Oh boy! :S Sorry vegans.

Cranberry orange almond dutch oven bread.

I make dutch oven bread every week now so that we would have breakfast bread for the week. This week I made a cranberry, orange, and almond version. It really is amazing but I still want to tweak it a bit more to experiment with the flavors. Late this afternoon as I was washing spinach for a salad, everything just came to me. Now I don't have any lettuce at home but I do have lots of spinach. I can't make a B.L.T but I could make a B.S.T by substituting spinach for lettuce. I'm totally making this up but I'll just go ahead and call it B.S.T since the classic B.L.T sandwich inspired it :)

Last summer, we went for lunch at Little Nest with my girlfriend and her boys. We absolutely LOVE Little Nest on Commercial Drive. My girlfriend ordered a B.L.T sandwich that was delicious. I didn't even know what a B.L.T was. Then I thought about it and guessed it stood for bacon, lettuce, and tomato since those were some of the things in the sandwich. Lol. For tonight's panini, I was totally going for a taste similar to what I remembered in the B.L.T sandwich at Little Nest. Gooey and yummy! The panini were a hit, just as I suspected :) After grabbing the link for Little Nest, I can now see that I wasn't too far off in my list of ingredients. Cool!

Sprinkle bacon with brown sugar and bake.

Candy bacon! It actually reminds me of Indian salmon candy.

Bacon Spinach Tomato (B.S.T) Grilled Cheese Sandwich
(Inside the assembly of 1 sandwich)

2 slices of dutch oven bread (I used mild flavored cranberry, orange, almond)
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp almond pesto
4-6 thin slices of elemental cheese (enough to cover each slice of bread)
2-3 slices of candy bacon, broken in half (instructions below)
4-5 leaves of spinach
2 slices of tomato (most of the seeds removed)

To make the candied bacon, sprinkle bacon with brown sugar and bake in oven at 350 F for around 20 minutes. Half way through, remove and pour out as much bacon grease as you can. You can discard the grease or save it for another dish. Continue baking the bacon. When it is done, it should look crispy and dry. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb more fat.

Spread pesto onto one slice of bread. On the other slice of bread, lay half the cheese on it. Top with spinach, then bacon, then tomato, then the rest of the cheese. Cover with the slice of bread you put pesto on. Grill this in your panini grill until the cheese melts and the sandwich is heated through. About 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately.
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