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  1. Style Update: Two-in-One

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    I am not spacing out these blog posts too good. I was trying really hard to post every other day or so but things have gotten so stressful and busy over here! Wedding planning combined with the beginnings of starting our own business (we = me and my cousin) is a very hectic mind.

     This style update is a two-in-one! Which means I took these photos about a week ago and didn't post them on time so they got stuck together!

    Dress: Xhileration (Target)
    Tights: unknown
    Shoes: Franco Sarto (I think my new favorite heels!)

    Shirt: Wet Seal
    Skirt: Cathy Kardwick

    Photos by Uncaged Photography


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  2. I saw a recipe similar to this on Pinterest, but when I looked at the recipe it was made using a brownie mix! I didn't want to do that, so I modified a recipe I already had to make these using a similar method.
    These are super delicious but best eaten fresh and warm. You can store them in an airtight container, but before you eat them heat up the cookies in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds to loosen up the caramel - otherwise it will be difficult to eat.

    Salted Caramel filled Chocolate Cookies
    makes about 20 cookies

    - 1 1/2 cups flour
    - 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    - 1/2 tsp baking soda
    - 1/4 tsp salt
    - 1/2 cup butter, at room temp (1 stick)
    - 1 cup white granulated sugar
    - 1 TB vegetable oil
    - 1 egg
    - 1 tsp vanilla extract
    - coarse sea salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
    With a mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and mix until well combined.  Beat in the vegetable oil (makes it easier to shape the cookies, without it the dough is too sticky). 

    Using a tablespoon scoop, scoop out heaping tablespoons of the cookie dough and flatten it in your hands. Take one of the caramel candies (unwrapped) and place it in the center of the dough. Top it with a pinch of the sea salt. Pinch the dough around the caramel and roll it in your hands slightly to form a uniform ball. Place it on the parchment paper lined baking sheet as you go. Do this until all the dough has been formed into cookies. 

    Bake for 5 minutes at 350 and then raise the heat to 375 for 10 additional minutes. 
    The cookies are done when they are puffed and the tops are cracked slightly.
    Let them cool slightly on the baking sheet. If you move them to a wire rack the caramel will leak out onto your counter.

    The cookies will deflate and flatten slightly as they cool, this is normal. They still taste delicious.

    Enjoy warm with a glass of milk!


  3. Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    I want to start off by apologizing for not posting all that regularly as of late. 
    I am super busy these days because I am in the midst of planning and preparing for my wedding at the end of June! I'm basically doing everything myself to keep it extremely low-budget, so that means a lot of work and planning on my end. Whew. And on top of that, I have Aria to keep an eye on. PLUS, my cousin and I are in the planning stages of starting a small business which I'll tell you more about as we get further along.
    So. A lot going on as you can see. With all that said, here is a new recipe!

    This meal started off as being Jhony's job. He offered to make a lasagna meal (which doesn't happen that often despite the fact that he can cook). But I ended up taking over because I had found a recipe for homemade ricotta that I wanted to try out, plus I wanted to make the sauce from scratch, and at that point I was basically already doing most of the work, so I just did everything. Not that I minded terribly. I love to cook. And it was the fact that he offered to do it that counts. :)


    Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta
    serves 4-8

    (recipe adapted from here)
    - 4 cups whole milk
    - 1 cup buttermilk
    - 1/3 cup heavy cream
    - salt
    - candy thermometer (optional)

    (recipe adapted from here)
    - 1 lb. ground beef
    - 1/2 medium onion, diced
    - 1/4 cup sugar
    - 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
    - 1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
    - 3 oz. tomato paste
    - 2 tsp garlic powder
    - 1 tsp onion powder
    - 1 tsp dried oregano
    - 1 tsp dried basil
    - 1 TB apple cider vinegar
    - pinch of dried red pepper flakes
    - salt and pepper
    - 1/2 lb. dry lasagna noodles
    - 1 1/2 lbs. grated mozzarella cheese
    - 3/4 lb. Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

    Line a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth (folded over several times) and set it in your sink.
    Combine milk, buttermilk and cream in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
    Bring to a boil until thermometer registers 185. If you don't have a thermometer, keep an eye on it to see when the curds are mostly separated from the whey. This will take about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, scoop spoonfuls of curd into the cheesecloth-lined strainer; sprinkling it with a little salt every 3-4 spoonfuls.
    Let the ricotta drain for 5 minutes, then taste to check consistency. If you like it drier, let it drain more. If you like it wetter, add a tablespoon or so of milk. 
    (It's best used right away but can keep for a couple days in the fridge.)

    This ricotta tastes so fresh and delicious  I had to keep myself from eating it all before I finished making the lasagna. This recipe made enough for the lasagna with about a half cup left over.

    Brown ground beef in dutch oven or large saucepan until cooked through. Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain excess fat. Add in diced onions and pinch of dried red pepper flakes. Cook until browned and softened and then add the ground beef back in. Season with salt and pepper.
    Add tomato paste and stir to release the flavors, cook one minute. Add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and dried basil. Add apple cider vinegar. Then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired level of sweetness -- no more than a 1/4 cup.
    Stir and allowed to simmer for 20-35 minutes to thicken. Stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I like lots of black pepper.)
    Cook lasagna noodles to al dente according to the package directions (this may be done in advance). Stir often to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other. Add in 1 TB of salt to the boiling water for more flavorful pasta. Drain noodles in a colander and keep in a cool water-filled pan or bowl to keep the noodles from drying out and sticking together.
    In a 9x13 baking dish (I used parchment paper that has aluminum foil on the other side to line the pan to make the lasagna easier to remove) ladle in one cup of sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. Apply a layer of noodles 3 length wise (edges overlapping). Apply spoonfuls of sauce sparingly over the noodles. Spread a layer of mozzarella cheese over the sauce and place ricotta cheese dollops every 2 inches on top of mozzarella layer, sprinkle a thin, even layer of parmesan on top of the ricotta. 
    Apply second layer of noodles, topped again with sauce and cheese.
    Finish with another layer of noodles, topped with extra sauce and cheese. Tent lasagna with aluminum foil (not touching noodles/cheese/sauce).
    Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 
    Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

    Flavor improves if made ahead of time and reheated in the oven. Leave aluminum tent on for storage - do not allow to touch the lasagna.

    I served the lasagna with fresh salad (I like to grate my carrots for salad) with homemade dijon vinaigrette.



  4. Cinco de Mayo* Flautas

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    *Note: I was going to post this on Sunday but my computer decided to go on the fritz, so I couldn't upload until today. Sorry the recipe is a bit late. :)

    Whenever I make flautas it's to re-use some leftover shredded meat. I've made it with leftover shredded chicken, pork and beef from various recipes. This go-round I made it from leftover Salsa Verde Carnitas. Of  course you could also make the carnitas for the purpose of making flautas. I changed up the recipe a little bit to suit my own taste - and the flautas part is really easy.

    I made a couple filled with queso fresco (as you will see in the pictures) for my daughter because the carnitas were too spicy for her. 

    (filled with carnitas and cheese)
    makes a lot*
    recipe for the carnitas adapted from here

    - 2-3 lbs pork shoulder
    - 2 cups salsa verde (that's the kind we always use)
    - 1 onion, chopped
    - 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
    - 3 cups chicken stock (or whatever kind you have on hand)
    - 2 tsp cumin seeds
    - 1 tsp fennel seeds
    - 2 tsp ground coriander
    - 1 tsp dried oregano
    - queso fresco
    - corn tortillas
    - frying oil
    - toothpicks
    - toppings (crumbled queso fresco, crema and cilantro)

    Salsa Verde Carnitas
    Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder roast. Put the roast, salsa verde, onion, garlic, stock, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, and oregano in a large, thick-bottomed pot over high heat. 
    Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

    Cover and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, or until meat pulls away easily with a fork.
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Remove meat from liquid in pot and put meat into a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. With 2 forks, tear the meat into large shreds. Spread out in an even layer. 
    Roast for 15-20 minutes until the shreds are brown and crispy.

    While the meat is roasting, reduce the liquid remaining in the pot to about half.
    Return the browned meat to the pot with the liquid. Season with salt.

    Pour about  3/4 of an inch of oil into your pan (I use my cast iron pan here) and heat to about 300 degrees. If you don't have a candy thermometer, test the oil by sticking in the handle of a wooden spoon, and if bubbles appear around the spoon the oil is hot enough.

    While the oil is heating, start assembling the the flautas. (If the tortillas are too stiff, microwave them in a stack for about 30 seconds to make them more pliable.) Lay out one tortilla and fill it down the middle with a couple tablespoons worth of carnitas and fold the sides of the tortilla over and secure with a toothpick. Continue assembling flautas until you are out of tortillas or carnitas (I made one package of corn tortillas worth, makes about 15 flautas, with plenty of leftover carnitas for later.)

    Place the filled tortillas in the hot oil and fry on each side for about a minute or until they are crispy and golden. Place the fried flautas on a paper towel lined plate as they finish. 
    Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before you serve them!

    Top with crema, crumbled queso fresco, and chopped cilantro.
    Serve immediately.

    The above picture is of my daughters flautas. They are filled with chunks of queso fresco and topped with crema and more queso fresco. She loves them as you can see below.


  5. Style Update: Modcloth

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Aria has started photo-bombing my style photos. She copies EVERYTHING we do, so her assumption is probably that when I have set the camera to the timer, she must also pose. Sometimes she also makes crazy faces - but that's for the next style post.

    Aria is also wearing new shoes, jacket and dress - all of which I love.

    Aria's shoes: Target
    Aria's jacket: London Fog via Unique
    Aria's dress: also Unique, unsure of brand

    Jacket: H&M
    Necklace: Cambodia (my name in Khmer)
    Undershirt: Express
    Dress: Tulle Clothing by Modcloth
    Belt: Unique thrift store, unknown brand
    Tights: Unknown 
    Black flats: Charlotte Russe
    White heels: Spring

    I only wore the heels for the photos and then switched to the flats to walk around in (Aria and I were walking around to several parks/playgrounds since it was a warm day and I didn't feel like doing that in heels).

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