Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Horchata Cupcakes

Since I had made horchata already, and I needed something to bring to a Mexican themed potluck that night, I made horchata cupcakes. I found this recipe online while searching for an horchata recipe and was intrigued. I love horchata... I love cupcakes... this made sense to make them. I just took some of the horchata that I made (after blending it but before diluting it and adding sugar) and used it in this recipe.

The cupcakes themselves are fairly easy to make if you already have horchata made. These cupcakes had a subtle horchata flavor (I don't know if you could tell what they were unless you were told... especially since horchata isn't an everyday flavor). I was disappointed in the frosting - you couldn't really taste the horchata, and you tasted the butter too much. I had to add more and more powdered sugar to get rid of the overwhelming butter taste.

I can't say that I'll be making these again. These cupcakes were good, but not fabulous, and when you already have a fabulous cupcake recipe why reinvent the wheel?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I can remember the first time I had horchata. I was in medical school and went to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant on the west side of Chicago with a friend for lunch. She ordered horchata, and I had never heard of it. I went ahead and got one too, and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. Horchata is a traditional Mexican drink made of rice, sugar, and water. This weekend I was hankering for horchata, and had some time on my hands, so I decided to make it.

Making horchata from scratch, I discovered, is a long, drawn-out process. First, you have to pulverize rice into a fine powder. Based on the recipes online that I found, the best way to do this is using a spice or coffee grinder, neither of which I own. One recipe said to use a food processor, so I pulled out the Cuisinart and processed the heck out of one cup of rice. It took a long time and was very noisy, and didn't get all the rice totally ground. Then you put the rice into a bowl with water, almonds, and cinnamon and let it soak for six hours. After that you blend it again, and then strain it with cheesecloth.

So much work. Was it worth it? Of course. I learned from it, and satisfied my inner desire to make horchata from scratch. Would I do it again? Well, if I have a Mexican restaurant close by where I could just go and buy horchata, then no. Plus my husband didn't really like it, so unless I was with someone who loved horchata and really wanted to have some, I probably won't make it again. I thought the final product was pretty tasty though.

Oh another thing. I didn't realize almonds were so expensive. Two cups of almonds cost me about seven dollars! That makes this drink a little cost-prohibitive. I'll need to search around for an horchata recipe that doesn't call for almonds. I could also try substituting almond extract.

I found a few recipes and adapted them to my liking. Here it is. It's pretty close to the Gale Gand recipe, but maybe next time I would try the Rick Bayless version.


1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups skinless almonds
2-inch piece cinnamon bark
7 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ice cubes

Wash and drain the rice. Using a food processor or spice grinder, grind the rice until fine; combine with the almonds and cinnamon bark. Add 3 1/2 cups water and let sit overnight, covered. Blend rice mixture until smooth using a blender. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and continue blending. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Strain horchata into a bowl first using a metal strainer and then a double layer of cheesecloth; finish with up to an additional 1 cups of water until it achieves a milky consistency. Enjoy over ice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

One of my favorite things about going to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field (yes, more than actually watching the game) is getting a frozen chocolate malt and eating it with a wooden spoon. Ever since I started making homemade ice cream, I have wanted to recreate that dessert. This was my first attempt. I looked online and found this recipe on the Desert Candy blog - I think what got me was the pictures of it. It looks just like the stuff at Wrigley! Alas, it didn't quite recreate the taste I was going for. I think a lot of it had to do with ingredients - the only cocoa powder I had was Nestle and Hershey's, neither of which are very good cocoa powders. I used the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa - which is way too dark. Instead of a pleasant, light brown color, my ice cream ended up very dark brown. I know that doesn't affect the taste, but it affected the entire experience of the ice cream for me... so in a way it did affect the taste. Anyway, I also didn't have any milk chocolate so I used bittersweet chocolate instead. The taste of this ice cream was okay, but not great, and nothing like what I taste when I put that little wooden spoon into that frosty paper cup of goodness at Wrigley Field. I may try this again now that I have better quality cocoa powder (Droste) and some Green & Black milk chocolate.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chipotle-Black Bean Burritos and Spanish Rice

Here's another one I found when I was looking for good vegetarian meals to make. I like black beans... I like burritos... so this recipe made sense to try. I picked up some Pace chipotle salsa from my grocery store to use for this recipe. I know bottled salsa is not that great, but I live in east Tennessee and I'm pretty sure I would not find good chipotle salsa anywhere (unless I made it myself, which I didn't have the time or the gumption to do). I thought the filling for these burritos was just ok. I am sure that it had to do with the quality of my salsa (the rest of the filling is black beans, corn, sauteed onions, and chili powder... what's not to like?). The avocado-salsa mixture was pretty good, but again, I think it would have been even better with a good fresh salsa. Well I don't think I'll make this one again unless I can get my hands on a good tasting chipotle salsa.

I also made a side of Spanish rice to go with the burritos. I found a recipe on the Simply Recipes blog - a site I've heard good things about, but I've never made anything from her blog. This was good, not amazing, but a good side dish. I used Better than Boullion instead of chicken stock, so that probably had something to do with it. I've never browned uncooked rice before (we Asians don't do fancy things to our rice like that), so that was an entirely new experience. Not life-changing or anything, but a little bit paradigm-shifting.

So... moral of the story? Use good ingredients. The end product will only be as good as your ingredients that you start with. The end.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lentil Stew With Spinach and Potatoes

I am trying to expand my vegetarian repertoire. I found this one while searching for vegetarian main courses on Epicurious. We really like lentils, and they are a great source of protein. I didn't have vegetable broth, so I substituted chicken Better than Boullion - otherwise I followed the recipe. This was pretty good, a very hearty stew for being meatless. I thought it was a little too minty - mint was definitely the dominant flavor, and I would have liked to taste the lentils a little bit more. I will probably make this again sometime when I feel like I need some protein but don't want meat.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Arroz Caldo

Part two in reclaiming my Filipino culinary roots. I was home for the holidays and my dad made arroz caldo one night. I had not had my dad's arroz caldo in a long time, and it was so delicious and comforting. Arroz caldo is the ultimate Filipino comfort food - it is basically a thick, creamy chicken and rice soup. My dad gave me a Filipino cookbook while I was home, so I used its arroz caldo recipe tonight. I used chicken thighs and just cut them up into smaller pieces. My dad adds chicken bouillon, so I used that tonight too.

Arroz Caldo

1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut up into serving pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, sliced thin
2 tbsp fish sauce (patis) - I use the Three Crabs brand
1 to 1 1/2 cups rice
6-7 cups water
2 tsp chicken boullion (or 2 cubes)
Chopped green onions (optional)
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and saute the garlic until lightly browned. Add the onion and ginger and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken and fish sauce and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice, water, and bouillon. Season with little salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking until the rice is cooked through and has reached the desired consistency (we like it thick). Adjust salt, pepper, and fish sauce to your liking. Garnish with green onions if desired.

Friday, January 4, 2008


We had a South Asian themed dinner one night, and my husband wanted to make naan. Naan is an Indian flatbread and is mighty tasty. We found this recipe and tried it. The ingredients are simple enough, but I am just not a big fan of kneading dough and I am never sure if I have kneaded enough or too much. Yes, I know about the gluten window, but it still doesn't give me much reassurance even when I get the window. I just need to get to know someone who makes a lot of homemade bread and I can learn from them.

Anyway, this turned out pretty good. I thought this naan was a little sweet though, which is not a flavor I am used to tasting in naan. My sister-in-law thought it tasted like Auntie Annie's pretzels - which is a good flavor, but not what I was going for. Regardless, all present really liked it and polished them off. I might try this again but with less sugar.