Wasabi and White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

Yes, you read it correctly – “wasabi” in a cupcake!  Why not? You find all sorts of interesting ingredients in truffles lately so wasabi in a cupcake isn’t too weird, right?  Anyway, this recipe also came from “Saved by Cake” by Marian Keyes.

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Makes: 12

Cupcakes:

3-1/2 ounces white chocolate

7 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon wasabi paste

Salted Caramel Topping:

7 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup (or substitute with dark corn syrup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

** Even though substitution for golden syrup is mentioned here, I highly recommend for you to get golden syrup (most larger supermarkets or specialty stores have golden syrup). 

Line a cupcake pan for 12 cupcakes and preheat the oven to 350F.

Melt the chocolate using your favorite method (I used microwave to gradually melt the chocolate), remembering that this is white chocolate and is easy to burn.  Add the butter to the chocolate and stir until everything is melted and combined.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.  The mixture might look a little strange and “congealy.” Don’t worry, let it all cool for about 10 minutes, ten add the vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer for a full 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time; sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt and fold through.  Finally, add the wasabi paste and make sure it’s distributed evenly.  Divide the mixture among the cupcake liners.  Bake for 22 minutes; cool the tray on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the salted caramel topping by putting the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, vanilla, and salt into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over a gentle heat.  When the butter and sugar have melted, raise the heat.  Whisk like mad until the mixture starts bubbling, but don’t let it boil.  Keep it at that bubbling point for about 5-8 minutes and it should thicken a little.

When you’re satisfied with its consistency, let it cool a little before icing the cupcakes – if it’s too hot, it’s liable to run down the sides.  However, if it cools down too much, it won’t spread easily enough.  So feel free to reheat it a bit if it’s gotten too stubborn and resistant, or let it cool down if it’s gone a little free-spirited with itself.  Finish by sprinkling the top with a few grains of sea salt.

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You can get wasabi paste at any Asian markets.

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We love golden syrup! Great for baking, but also delicious on toasts!

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If you don’t feel like making caramel topping, you can just use a good quality caramel sauce.  We love this caramel sauce from Trader Joe’s (just briefly microwave until the sauce is spreadable).

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My opinion:  Another Marian Keyes recipe for adults!!  Both of my children weren’t too thrilled with these cupcakes; one showed outright distaste claiming she can taste the wasabi, and another was impartial to it but preferred not eating it.  However, once again the adults LOVED it!  I loved the fluffy and dense cake, the subtle wasabi flavor which gave a deeper taste to the cake combined with the salted caramel sauce made this a pure winner!  I really think the combination of wasabi and white chocolate were wonderful!

Lomo Saltado

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I have been sick for the past 2 weeks and my kids have been taking turns getting sick also.  For some reason I have not been able to shake this virus or whatever it is I have – maybe I’m not getting better fast because of my age!!  Oh well, anyway, I have been craving this Peruvian dish called “Lomo Saltado” – it’s basically a Peruvian stir-fry you eat with homemade fries and rice.  I first had lomo saltado while we vacationed in Peru for a month last summer.  It was love at first sight!  Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the food I tasted in Peru (from different Peruvian fruits and vegetables, fresh ceviche, pisco sour, grilled guinea pig and other meats, Chifa, etc.), but lomo saltado was one dish I kept on craving in Peru.  I don’t know what it is, maybe I fell in love with the tender beef sauteed with onions, peppers and tomatoes, or maybe it was the homemade fries made with Peruvian potatoes.  Don’t get me started with Peruvian potatoes! They taste phenomenal!  I believe Peru has about 4000 varieties of potatoes, and their corn too (with over 55 varieties of corn), oh my gosh, so good!

Peruvian cuisine is largely influenced by the Chinese, who immigrated to Peru in the mid-1800’s (in fact, they were actually brought over as laborers).  This Chinese-Peruvian cuisine is called “Chifa” and you see many Chifa restaurants all over Lima and its surrounding districts.  It’s almost like the Chinese-American takeout places here in America, but you can find Chifa in all price categories.  We’ve eaten at a hole in the wall Chifa where we got a huge order of lunch special of fried rice and stir-fried vegetable for $2.00 to very nice sit down Chifa restaurants.

Lomo Saltado isn’t exactly Chifa, however, it does use soy sauce. Another main ingredient is typical Peruvian pepper called “Aji Amarillo“.  As the name indicates, it has a yellowish color and it’s used in Peruvian cooking.  I have not found fresh aji amarillo here in Philadelphia, but I heard that you can get some in and around Miami area.  What you can find in larger Latin American markets are the marinated aji amarillo and the paste kind.   I love using aji amarillo paste especially in my empanadas!   You can find quite a few lomo saltado recipes, but only a few have either fresh aji amarillo or paste in the ingredient list.  I’m very lucky, because my lomo saltado recipe came from a book given to me by my sister-in-law in Peru (yes, she’s Peruvian).  It is a humongous and expensive book, perfect as a coffee table book, but I refuse to just let this book sit pretty on my coffee table!

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Here’s my favorite aji amarillo paste:

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Since I have been waiting to make this dish, I did splurge and bought a really good piece of sirloin meat.  I will not disclose how much I paid, but I wasn’t about to skimp on my favorite dish!

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So, seriously, at this point in my sickness with a major lomo saltado craving, and no decent Peruvian restaurants in sight what was my choice?  I could have just ignored my craving or just make it myself… well, I chose the latter 🙂  I had to alter the recipe a bit because there was no way I was able to get fresh aji amarillo, so I added the paste and bell peppers instead.  Homemade fries would have been great, but you know, I wasn’t up to spending more time cooking so I used organic frozen fries (which was pretty darn good).

4-6 Servings:

1-1/2 to 2lbs best beef tenderloin (or any cut you prefer), sliced

2 medium onions,sliced

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

3 medium tomatoes, each sliced into 8 wedges

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 Tablespoons red vinegar

4 Tablespoons soy sauce

3-4 Tablespoons Aji Amarillo paste

Salt and pepper, to taste

4-5 Tablespoons beef broth or water

Over a high flame, heat the oil in a frying pan (or a wok) until it begins to smoke; add the meat and saute well for 3 minutes or done.  Set aside.

In the same frying pan saute the onion, bell peppers and tomatoes.  Pour the vinegar, soy sauce and aji paste; add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the cilantro and beef broth or water.  Mix together to blend the flavors.

To serve:  scoop rice at the one corner of a plate, spread fries and pour the beef mixture with sauce over fries. Here’s a little rice mold I bought in Lima, Peru.

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My opinion:  I know it’s going to sound cocky saying this about my own cooking, but this was DELICIOUS!!  My family loved it too!  Love to eat the crispy fries soaked with the beef sauce and mixing together with rice (well, at least that’s the way I like to eat this).   Truly delicious:)

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I always appreciated and loved Red Velvet Cakes;  my only problem was the red dye in the recipe.  In the past I have substituted the red dye with shredded beets and its juice, but the color didn’t quite come out as nice; I can get “natural” red dye from organic stores, but I seriously don’t want to spend close to $10.oo for it.  So, I made a compromise with myself – I will only make Red Velvet Cake once in a while and put less red dye in it, or I can just omit the red dye and not take any photos of the end product!  Today, I ended up using red dye, but less of it.

Since Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and my husband’s birthday is only 1 day after Valentine’s I thought I would experiment with few Red Velvet recipes.  Today’s recipe came from here and it’s pretty simple to make.

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Note: Even though the original recipe says it’ll make 8 cupcakes I squeezed out 9 cupcakes.  The ingredients below are for 8-9 cupcakes, I doubled this to make 1-1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons lightly beaten egg (break egg, mix with fork, measure) – if you double the recipe you can easily use 1 egg yolk.
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Batter:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoon all purpose flour (5 oz)
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon red food coloring (I put slightly less)
3/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.

Prepare filling first. With a mixing spoon, beat together softened cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In a second mixing bowl, stir together oil, sugar, vinegar, egg, red food coloring, vanilla and sour cream. Mix very well, then add flour mixture and stir just until blended.

Measure out approximately 1/3 cup red mixture and set aside. Divide remaining red mixture among the 8 muffin cups – each cup should be a little over 1/3 of the way full. Spoon cream cheese mixture over red mixture, dividing evenly between all cups. Drop small spoonfuls of reserved red batter on top of cream cheese mixture, making a bulls-eye pattern.

Bake for 20-23 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Carefully remove lift muffins from cups.
Best serve slightly chilled.

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Please excuse the look of my muffin tin, it’s time to buy new tins, but I’ve been trying to make the most out of this.

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My opinion:  I baked this for my children’s after school snack, and they each had 2 cupcakes and wanted more (they ended up splitting the 3rd one).  A bit different from your traditional Red Velvet (not as sweet, and you don’t have the heavy cream cheese frosting or butter frosting), but still incredibly delicious!  You know, coming to think about it, this will be a great picnic dessert because it’s not messy to eat and it travels very well!!

Summer Break

With the hot lazy heat of Summer I will be taking a break from posting new blog posts!  With our European vacation over, my next task is to get my children’s school supplies in order, and possibly taking a short vacation somewhere in the Northeast coast of America.  I hope you all have a good, fun and restful Summer!! I just wanted to add that I am collecting bunch of interesting recipes to try out in the Fall!!  I’m immensely looking forward to the cooling temperature to try out these recipes!

Why I’m doing what I’m doing

Let me tell you my  evolving journey of food choices in the past decade or so.  This is nothing dramatic, in fact, you’ll most likely hear many similar stories being told by many others out there.  About 9 years ago, we switched from regular milk to organic milk.  It really disturbed me that the milk my  toddler daughter was drinking was injected with growth hormones; as a result of that we began switching all our dairies to organic products.  I gradually started to check what other products are laced with undesirable chemicals, and we started to buy and eat more organic foods.  We don’t merely just buy all organics, there are some produces which absorb pesticides more than the other, so we make conscious choices.  We also factor in which ingredients were used with GM (genetically engineered ) products.  In the early 2000’s, Steve (my husband ) and I watched “Super Size Me” – a documentary where Morgan Spurlock only eats McDonald’s foods for 30 days.  Gut wrenching is putting things mildly of what I felt after watching the film.  Then around the same time, I read “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser; it is an investigative look into food industries which provide all of our fast food and supermarket foods.  Reading about the unsafe and toxic condition in mass industrial farming where our meats come from, the treatments of these animals, treatment of the workers, etc, pretty much sealed my conviction of not wanting to support nor eat any of their food products.  After few years of reading and watching these, I became lax with what I bought at the supermarket.  I still made efforts to go to the WholeFoods, Trader Joe’s and local farmer’s market, but I realized I was becoming more lazy and just buying things just because they were on sale.   More recently, the documentary film “Food Inc” reminded me of my original conviction and here I am making my way back into “healthier” eating lifestyle. 

I believe in supporting organic and sustainable farming practices (including livestocks).  I love the idea of buying and eating locally grown products!  The past few years, in our stamp size front yard, we’ve made efforts to grow different veggies, ie. Asian cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.  Just being able to step into our yard and plucking and harvesting fresh veggies just make me feel really really good! We have been weaning ourselves from meat, and to be honest with you, the cravings for meat has significantly decreased.  We allow ourselves to eat meat once in a while.  In this way, we make sure to buy only organic meats (which I think are quite pricey) and not indulge in meat orgy:-)   We still do eat dairies and sometimes fish.  However, fishing industries are suffering with pollutants etc, so we only eat fish once in a while also. 

I have chosen “Simple Suppers”, one of the cookbook from Moosewood restaurant (vegetarian restaurant located in downtown Ithaca, NY) to guide me into cooking more variety of vegetarian dishes.  My family and I are looking forward to this and I hope to be honest with our journey progresses (both good and bad). 

Obviously, due to other family obligations etc, we will not be able to eat vegetarian 365 days, but I will count myself lucky and successful if I can at least cook vegetarian in my own kitchen:-)

Revised: November 9, 2011: 

I should have revised earlier, didn’t really think about it.  So, our one year vegetarian lifestyle has ended a little while ago.  As you can see from my recent recipes, we are back to eating meat.  Although I do have to say we are eating less meat than before, and we truly make conscious decision to buy organic meat (if we do eat meat).   I still incorporate lots of vegetables in our meals, especially trying to choose vegetables with bright colors, ie. red, orange, purple and green;  since these are packed with great nutrients!!  I do have to say my children have learned to appreciate (I didn’t say “like”) vegetables they used to “hate” before, such as beets, escarole, and kale (and other leafy greens) through this vegetarian journey.  For that, I am eternally thankful!!