Sunday, November 27, 2011

100th Post Giveaway!! Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Wow I can’t believe it’s my 100th post!  The time seems to have flown by.  To celebrate I have a small little giveaway, sponsored by Duncan Hines and through my participation in the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program!  In this fun Tastemaker event Duncan Hines and Comstock came together and challenged us to create a recipe using their products.  Duncan Hines was even nice enough to provide me with some coupons so my readers can try their cake mix, frostings or heavenly glazes for free!  I have five to giveaway and you can win by leaving a comment telling me you a). following me on Twitter, b). liking me on Facebook or c). just leaving a comment.  Be sure to leave a comment if you already a fan on either twitter or facebook too!


If you’ve read my blog before, you know I am a fan of jazzing up plain old cake mixes and turning them into something more.  So when I was shopping and saw the Duncan Hines Caramel Apple Cake Mix, I wanted to try it immediately but also really infuse the flavor of apple in the cakes, so I grabbed a can of the Comstock Apple Pie filling.  The results?  Amazing!  

Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

1 box Duncan Hines Decadent Caramel Apple Cake Mix (Spice Cake would be awesome too)
1 cup Comstock Apple Pie filling

1.  Assemble cake mix and caramel mix as directed in the box.  Add in the 1 cup of Apple Pie filling (dice apples into smaller pieces) into the cake batter. 

2.  Pour batter into cupcake liners and spoon the caramel sauce into each cupcake and swirl with knife.  *Save any extra caramel to drizzle on top of cupcakes after frosted. *

3.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until baked through.  Remove from heat and let cool. 


Salted Caramel Frosting
from CHOW

1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar

1.  In a heavy bottom sauce pan add the sugar and water to the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let it cook until the mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.  * Don’t stir the mixture with a spoon, gently swirl mixture by rotating the saucepan.*

2.  Remove from heat and slowly add in the heavy cream and vanilla extract, stirring until the mixture is completely smooth.  Set aside until the caramel is cool to the touch.  *Approximately 20-25 minutes*

3.  Combine butter and salt in a bowl and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.  Chill frosting for 30 minutes or longer to allow it to set.

Frost cupcakes and top with apple pieces (left over from the comstock apple pie filling).  *Optional:  Drizzle with left over caramel.*



Oh and just wait until you take a bite, caramel goodness awaits you!!!  My friends and I loved these cupcakes, so decadent, the salted caramel was perfect with the sweet fall flavors of caramel apples.  The addition of the apple pie filling in the batter made the cake even moister!   


Don’t forget to enter to win some Duncan Hines coupons!!  I’ll pick the winners at random and announce them in my next blog post. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fall Inspired Turkey Sandwich

My recent trip to North Carolina had me thinking about curried goat cheese for a long time.  Why had I not had that flavor combination before?  It seems so obvious right?  Then an idea hit me, the perfect Fall sandwich that could also make use of any Thanksgiving left over turkey! 


Don’t get me wrong, I love a leftover thanksgiving sandwich as much as the next girl. Stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes all piled on a roll…  But there are only so many days that you can eat that without wanting something a tad bit lighter, or before the button of your jeans pops off and nearly takes out your eye. This sandwich is delicious and on the lighter side.  Best of all it’s easy, cause we’re all going to be tired after cooking up our Thanksgiving feasts!   

Curried Goat Cheese Turkey Sandwich

2 slices of multi grain bread
1.5 oz. soft goat cheese
Curry powder
1/2 honeycrisp apple, cut into thin slices
2 oz. turkey, sliced

1.  In a small bowl combine goat cheese and curry powder.  *Add a few dashes of curry powder and add more to taste.* 

2.  Spread curry goat cheese on one piece of the multi grain bread, layer thin slices of honeycrisp apple and turkey. 

Optional:  Pop the sandwich into toaster sandwich to let the flavors meld. 


I’ve kinda been eating this sandwich non stop, especially since honeycrisps are in season right now. 

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family!!  Back in college, the first year that I was not able to go home for Thanksgiving, I forced my friends to each reveal something that they are thankful for.  So in that same tradition, while I feel I have a lot to be thankful for, most of my family is in Hawaii, but I feel so lucky to have such great friends up here in Los Angeles all of who checked to make sure I had plans and invited me into their homes for Thanksgiving.  (Love you guys and miss you mom and dad!) 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Wedding in North Carolina

The first half of my trip to North Carolina was off to a great start!  I got to try Cracker Barrel, authentic North Carolina style BBQ and some awesome ice cream!  On the day of the wedding, we went back into downtown Pittsboro and we were in luck since they were having a fair that day! 

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After walking around a bit, we were back to our B and B to rest up and get ready for the wedding.  We headed over to the Goat Cheese farm a little early since they had set up tons of fun lawn games like ladder ball for the guests to play while having drinks.  There was also so much to see at the goat cheese farm itself!



Soon it was time for the wedding festivities to begin!

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For the reception we had Mint Juleps and another amazing meal!  One of the things that I fell in love with was the fresh goat cheese that was crusted with curry powder.  AMAZING!  Oh and the duck pate…



Dinner was super delish as well!!  Overall an excellent trip, I can’t wait to go back to North Carolina again.  Everything from the food, the people, the trees (amazing!!! So sad I didn’t take any pictures of all the amazing trees we saw while driving) and just being exposed to a more rural area of America was totally eye opening and wonderful for me.  Congrats again my friend Char who looked amazing on her wedding day!  XOXO   


We had another great meal before we left, where I got to try Pickle Chips!  (Not a pickle fan but was loving the pickle chips)  AND I had sweet potato tater tots.  Can we say- GENIUS? 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Trip to North Carolina

My good friend Charlotte got married about a month ago in North Carolina.  A whole bunch of us got on a plane from Los Angeles and made out way out east.  Have never really been to the “South” I was so excited to try all the goodies that were waiting for me.  I had one cheesy request when we got off the plane, “Can we please please try Cracker Barrel?!?” 


My friends being the good sports they are were totally game for checking it out!  We actually went straight there from the airport to get some breakfast.  For those of you who have never been to a Cracker Barrel, there is a cute little country store selling all kinda goodies.  Breakfast turned out to be a great idea, please meet my new love:


Why hello Lover!!!  Chicken Fingers sandwiched between buttery biscuits.  Completed with a side of hash brown casserole, eggs and grits!  Is it wrong to be so excited that all this goodness was only $5.99?  

Next we headed to the cutest little Bed and Breakfast in the town of Pittsboro and we went about exploring the little “Main Street” area.  On our way we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly (who knew they really existed?!) and each bought some local goods.

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Oh yes here at the Piggly Wiggly there were hams and pig parts galore (things I have never seen packaged, prepared or in the deli case before) and yes I stumbled upon these beauties.  Yes that is a single serving of wine in a “to-go” container.  A faux glass (to keep it classy) complete with a pop off lid.  I actually bought the Riesling for my friend to try when she was getting ready for the wedding and we heard that it was actually quite delish.  A steal at $2.99! 

Then we ventured down to S & T Soda Shoppe and had a quick lunch and of course ice cream.  I had an amazing Banana Cream Pie flavored ice cream (bits of banana, nilla wafers and whipped cream all mixed in).  My friend Jen had the largest ice cream float EVER.

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We then headed to rehearsal dinner, which was being held at the Celebrity Goat Cheese Dairy Farm.  We had amazing North Carolina style BBQ from the famous Allen and Sons.  It was here I met my other Southern love, the Hush Puppy.  Did you know that hush puppies with duck pate is amazing?  Well, it is….  

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Brunswick stew, North Carolina style slaw, hush puppies, potato salad, and BBQ pork.  And for dessert, Apple Pie with Goat Milk Ginger Ice Cream.  YUM!!!!  To end the night we all participated in some Moonshine drinking and a super fun bonfire. 


The weekend was off to a super amazing start!  There’s so much I want to share that this will be a two part post, hope you all don’t mind. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brunswick Stew

I fell in love with Brunswick Stew when we had it at my friends North Carolina BBQ themed rehearsal dinner.  At first glance I thought it was just pork and beans so I took a small serving, once I tried it on top of a saltine cracker though, I was in love and found myself getting another larger portion!  Please check out the yummy goodness we had- dear hush puppies I miss you as well.   


Brunswick Stew
adapted from

1/2 Rotisserie Chicken, shredded
2 cups fat free chicken broth
1 15oz can of lima beans, undrained
1 28oz can of whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
8oz frozen lima beans
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 can cream corn, or 1 cup frozen corn
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup ketchup or BBQ Sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
hot sauce, to taste
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1.  Add 3 cups of chicken broth, the liquid from the canned lima beans (reserve beans for later), and the canned tomatoes to your dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, cook stirring often reducing the liquid by 1/3 for 40 minutes. 

2.  Mash reserved lima beans and add into the pot with shredded chicken, potatoes and onions to Dutch oven.  Cook over low heat for 3.5 hours, stirring often.  Stir in corn and remaining ingredients and cook for an additional hour. 

Serve with saltines or hush puppies. 


This was so yummy with the colder weather we are having and since this makes a pretty large portion I was able to freeze some for later as well!  I want to know what other Southern foods I am missing out on!  I’ll share with you all the things I DID get to try when I went out to North Carolina. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vol. 94 in Pasadena

The other night I was lucky enough to get invited to the soft opening of a new restaurant in Pasadena called Vol. 94!  I actually used to live up in Pasadena and it is still one of my favorite towns in Los Angeles, if the drive to work hadn’t worn me out, I still would be living there today.  Vol. 94 just opened up in a space across the street from Paseo near Old Town Pasadena.  It’s a wine bistro with seasonal New American small plates with an asian twist.

My friends and I were lucky enough to participate in the Chefs tasting menu which was amazing!!  Executive Chef Phil Lee and his team sent out dish after dish of amazing and well composed plates and the owner Joon came by and offered us various wine pairings and encouraged us to sample the excellent selections of wines they had. 


We started with the Charcuterie platter and duck fat fried nuts.  I loved the pates and fig compote and my friends could not get enough of the duck fat nuts!


Next up were the McSweetbreads (which tasted like super high end chicken McNuggets) which came with sweet and sour and mustard dipping sauces.  And the Mushroom Flan, which reminded me of a refined chawan mushi. 


The next starter was one of my favorites, it was the Kanpachi sashimi which was served with an avocado cream, puffed black rice and these awesome cubes of ginger gelee.  The flavor and texture combinations were like happiness in my mouth! 


Ok wait, this was one of my favorites too.  I actually totally want to try to re-create this for you all at home!  They called this PBJ, Polenta Bacon and Tomato Jam!  Creamy beds of polenta are lightly seared and topped with a sweet tomato jam and pieces of crispy salty bacon. 


Oh but we were just getting started with the feast.  Our next dish was a seared tako (octopus) plate with some spicy arugula, siracha and a saffron aioli.  The next dish I think was off menu and was a smoked trout crostini which was topped with a nice lemony salad mix. 

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Before we started the heavier dishes we had a couple more starters, included the roasted asparagus with a poached egg and some forbidden rice with a Korean spicy crab mixture on top, that seemed like a little bite of bibimbap in your mouth!


This is a must order!  I may be a little bit partial since mussels are one of my all time favorites especially when paired with a glass of wine.  These are swimming in a slightly spicy green curry sauce.  I soaked up all of the coconut curry that I could with my mussels and toasts points that came with it.  Soooooo good! 


The kitchen kept cranking out amazing dishes for us, next up was the melt in your mouth pork belly with a papaya slaw and a perfectly tender hangar steak served up with an aji and chimichurri sauce.  At this point the friendly owner Joon came over and recommended an excellent Malbec to pair with our steak.  The combination brought me back to the parilla’s in Argentina… Which reminds me I need to book my next South American vacation!!   


These two dishes were so playful and delish!  On the left we have a fun take on clams and spaghetti (the clams are stuffed with spaghetti squash).  And on the right we have a faux-sagna where the pasta sheets were made with turnips and rutabega, and covered in tomato sauce, cheese and truffles.

V94_11 This is Korean BBQ the Vol. 94 way!  Korean marinated pork cheeks are served with a gochujang sauce, garlic confit, an asian slaw and grilled duk (mochi) pieces.  I seriously could have eaten this whole plate by myself, it was so good.  I forget what that green powder was in the front of the plate (something like a korean shiso) but it totally complimented the dish.  This will probably become one of Chef Phil’s signature dishes!!   

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Somehow we managed it, but we made room in our stretchy pants for a couple of desserts.  A yummy blueberry cheesecake with an amazing graham cracker crumble on top.  (One of my friends like this so much she practically licked the bowl)  The other was a classic crème brulee with lemon sugar shortbread cookies! 

I can’t wait to go back and take some of my friends who live in the area and to try some of the other dishes we missed like the Short Ribs!  Thanks again to Chef Phil and the amazing staff at Vol. 94!  They also told me as a part of their prep for their Grand Opening, they are offering deals through Facebook and Yelp when you check in.  Score! 

Disclaimer:  I was invited to Vol. 94 and received my meal gratis.  However the opinions expressed are my own and I am not receiving any other compensation.