hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly
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Some nights when I’m up late, I’ll get up to the roof of my apartment to unwind before bed. I like to watch the planes fly by and peek at all the little cars below. I wonder where everyone’s going and where they’ve been and what kind of lives they might have. I think about how there are so many people in the world and how we’re all different but yet so fundamentally similar. We laugh and cry and love and think and feel and as I look down at the city, I can imagine all these strings tethering us to one another, sometimes in ways we don’t really even know.

The population of O’ahu is approximately just under 1 million. 1,000,000 people living on 597 mi² of land. Basically, what this means is when people I meet learn I’m from Hawaii and ask: “Oh, do you know -insert random friend who is also from Hawaii’s name here-?”… chances are I probably do or at least know someone who definitely does.

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

Before I started F2B, I was a huge fan of Two Red Bowls and Cynthia, the wonderful person behind it. She’s a full-time lawyer, who also somehow finds time to run a blog, and takes these insanely gorgeous photos of meals that make me want to head to the grocery store and attempt myself the second I see a new post. She’s kind of superwoman. *no kidding* I kind of fan-girled out the first time Cynthia left a comment on one of my posts… OKAY get it together me. But getting back to what I was saying, one morning I was on Facebook and saw a few wedding photos that a friend from highschool had posted. Days later, I saw Cynthia’s blog post on her wedding, put two and two together and realized that said highschool friend’s brother is Andy aka B2 aka Cynthia’s husband. I told you! I don’t know how I didn’t realize it earlier, after Cynthia’s posts of spam musubi and malasadas and chicken katsu. It drives me bananas how there are so many people on the planet yet this world can feel so small after moments like these. Who woulda thunk it.

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

Today we’re celebrating some more big news for Cynthia and Andy, which is the newest addition to their sweet little family, dear Luke aka B3 aka the cutest little thing ever! And in honor of both of their love (and I’m sure soon, Luke’s too) for Hawaii, I’m sharing this big ol’ fruit platter filled with some of my favorite local fruits! I’m sure most of you are all familiar with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and perhaps dragonfruit so I won’t spend time discussing those as you can easily find them in most grocery stores. The main stars are these that are grown in Hawaii and expensive AF to purchase if you ever see the same thing on the mainland.

Papaya is just about my favorite fruit in all the land. I love slicing it in half and seeing the bright orange fruit surrounding a bed of dozens of strange black seeds. If it’s ripe, all you need is a spoon and maybe a little squeeze of lemon and you’re on your way to heaven. If I could take a 10 lb bag of them with me on the plane, oh I would. Hey remember how we were talking about how incredibly small this world is? My first trip to the grocery store back in LA, I had zero desire to eat any of the food I saw as I was still coming off my poke and acai bowls everyday high. Then, hidden away under the bottom row of bananas, I saw three big glorious papayas. ALSO, they were from Diamondhead Papayas, meaning grown in Hawaii and had been shipped all the way over to the very Whole Foods I shop at in DTLA (I have never seen papaya at a grocery store other than at home), and not from Mexico or Asia.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Courtney, you can find Pineapple and Mango almost anywhere. Yes, except the ones grown in Hawaii are the best. They’re so sweet and such a vibrant color and you also don’t have to spend a fortune. Also mango trees are kind of everywhere. My parents helped out with making mango chutney for my highschool one year and my Dad walked around Manoa to find mango trees and ask the homeowners if we could pick them. And I am all also all about lihing pineapple.

Lastly, Lilikoi/Passionfruit. I don’t know what else to say about this that I haven’t said already. I’ve made passion fruit curd, passion fruit tarts, passion fruit eclairs – when I think of home I think of lilikoi. If you haven’t had it before, I’m like 99.78% sure you’ll love it.

Head over to Steph or Alana’s blog to get a full link list of everyone’s recipes!

PS: Here’s some photos of the stuff I ate while I was home ’cause ya know, food blog. I’m also trying to prove that yes, I did mean what I said about eating raw fish for almost every meal.
PPS: I learned how to make every letter of the alphabet in pretzels and sorry in advance for potato quality on some of the iPhone photos.

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

BE STILL MY BEATING HEART

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

hawaiian fruit bowl fork to belly

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pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly
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Hi friends and Happy October! Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and mostly because of rainy mornings, curling up in bed, hearty soups, and chillier weather. This season is all about being cozy and comfortable and that’s always something I’m up for. So in the spirit of things, I’m sharing Pumpkin Gnocchi for this year’s #VirtualPumpkinParty! Sara from Cake Over Steak and Aimee from Twigg Studios rounded up a whole bunch of super wonderful bloggers for another round of pumpkin inspired dishes this year and I am so excited to be participating again. Last year, I made this Pumpkin Orange Brûlée Pie which was almost a complete disaster, but you can read all about that on your own~

So, Pumpkin. The reason we’ve all got a little bit of *basic* in us. It’s the quintessential autumn meal. Pumpkin is so versatile with either sweet or savory dishes and can sneak its way into most any form. Think: muffins, hot cocoa, caramel, salad, soup. When I was a kid, my grandma would roast slices of kabocha squash sprinkled with brown sugar, and it was always one of my favorite things at the dinner table – which explains why I can never deny myself from picking up one if I see it at the grocery store.

pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly

I’ve had my fair share of good and bad experiences where gnocchi is concerned. The first time trying it, an old roommate and I were attempting to clean out our fridge and I was coerced into eating premade gnocchi from Whole Foods that had been in the freezer for the last month. “What’s even in gnocchi?” I asked. “Potatoes. You’ll love it.” And I believed her. I really do love potatoes. We ended up throwing most of it away because to tell the truth, I probably didn’t know how to prepare pasta very well and honestly gnocchi is so dreadfully boring without any sauce. I’m sure I just heard pasta snobs everywhere gasp in horror. I’M SORRY.

The second time I had gnocchi, I made it myself from scratch using a recipe I can’t seem to find on the internet anymore. I don’t know if that alone means something or the fact that I can’t remember if I loved it or hated it does more. That’s basically where I gave up on ever making gnocchi at home, but eventually fell in love with it smothered in beef ragù at Maccheroni Republic who sure knows what the heck they’re doing when it comes to pasta.

pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly

pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly

I was dabbling around with so many different pumpkin ideas when brainstorming for this post. Gnocchi was the last thing on my mind until I saw this photo by Japanese food photographer, Hidekazu Makiyama aka Mackinpo. CUTEST PASTA EVER. Plus, it screamed Halloween!!!!!! I had to try again at homemade gnocchi again and I was determined to get it right this time.

The gist of gnocchi goes like this: a) usually a mixture of flour, eggs, and potatoes (though in this case, pumpkin) mixed together and kneaded into a light dough, 2) rolling out the dough and cutting the gnocchi into cubes, 145) using a special tool to give the gnocchi ridges for the sauce to cling on to. What I’ve changed for this recipe is to roll out the dough but to then use a little pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to create individual pasta shapes. I also painted their faces on with balsamic vinegar because I’m absolutely ridiculous.

pumpkin gnocchi fork to belly

Recently I’ve been getting home late and am out the door in the early morning, leaving less and less time for me to spend on prepping dinner. Instead, I’ll cook as much as I can on Sunday and store the rest for quick and easy meals during the week. The best part about this Pumpkin Gnocchi is you don’t have to cook it all at once. You can cut out whatever shapes you want or roll them traditionally, then freeze ’em for gnocchi whenever you need it. Gnocchi takes a bit of effort to prepare – especially if you’re painting jack-o-lantern faces on – but I promise they’re delicious and they’ll still be pretty cute even if you don’t give them faces. I’m just a crazy person.

Check out the other amazing 90+ recipes everyone’s brought to #VirtualPumpkinParty 2016 by heading over to Sara’s and Aimee’s blog here or by taking a peek down below. Yes, there’s A LOT of links. Three cheers for fall and to possibly taking over the internets with all things pumpkin today! Happy eating, friends 🙂

Cake Over Steak • Quick Pumpkin and Kale Risotto + Arancini

Twigg Studios • Sausage Stuffing Baked in a Pumpkin

Donuts, Dresses and Dirt • Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles

Cloudy Kitchen • Pumpkin Cake with Vanilla German Buttercream

Vegetarian Ventures • Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus

Eat Boutique • Pumpkin Scallion Dumplings

A Little Saffron • Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Two Red Bowls • Pumpkin & Maple Caramel Baked French Toast

Wallflower Kitchen • Mini Pumpkin & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Wit & Vinegar • Pumpkin Butterscotch Banana Split

Style Sweet CA • Pumpkin Creme Brulee Cake

Nommable • Pumpkin Biscuits with Mushroom Thyme Gravy

With Food + Love • Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seed Bread

Hortus • Creamy Roasted Squash Soup + Pumpkin Risotto

Sevengrams • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Jojotastic • 1 Pumpkin, 2 Ways: Pumpkin Trail Mix & Dog Treats

Grain Changer • Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal

Girl Versus Dough • Pumpkin Cranberry Flax Crisps

Earthy Feast • Pumpkin Grits + Pumpkin Home Fries + a Fried Egg

Harvest and Honey • Truffled Pumpkin Papardelle Alfredo with Frizzled Sage

Tasty Seasons • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

Broma Bakery • Pumpkin Butter Pop Tarts

Tending the Table • Roasted Pumpkin and Barley Salad

The Sugar Hit • Super Soft Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Delicious Not Gorgeous • Waffles with Spiced Pumpkin Butter and Brown Sugar Walnut Crumble

Taste Love and Nourish • Pumpkin Bread Pudding

The Green Life • Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Skillet Cookie (Vegan)

Foolproof Living • Pumpkin Creme Fraiche Pasta with Sage

The Monday Box • Pumpkin Butterscotch Cakes

Design Crush • Pumpkin Bourbon Hot Toddy

The Road to Honey • Pumpkin Pie & Chocolate Layer Cake

My Name is Yeh • Roasted Pumpkin with Yogurt and Hazelnut Dukkah

Give Recipe • Orange Chocolate Pumpkin Bread

Heartbeet Kitchen • Magic Vegan Pumpkin Pie Fudge

Beard and Bonnet • Marbled Pumpkin Muffins

Eat Within Your Means • Vegan Pumpkin Blender Muffins

Snixy Kitchen • Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding with Candied Pumpkin Seeds

Ruby Josephine • Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine

Lab Noon • Pasta Bake with Roasted Pumpkin and Saffron Sauce, Pistachio and Goat Cheese

An Edible Mosaic • Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding

Hey Modest Marce • Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie

Inspired By the Seasons • Pumpkin Applesauce Smoothie

CaliGirl Cooking • Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Rolls with Spiked Cream Cheese Glaze

Sally’s Baking Addiction • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Well and Full • Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus

Appeasing a Food Geek • Cheese Fondue Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin

SweetPhi • Pumpkin Chili Biscuit Bake

Warm Vanilla Sugar • Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts

Mademoiselle Poirot • Cinnamon-Pumpkin Mousse on Honey Panna Cotta topped with Hazelnut Brittle

Heart of a Baker • Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Flourishing Foodie • Massaman Curry with Pumpkin and Chickpeas

Ginger & Toasted Sesame • Pumpkin Jeon

Lindsay Jang • Best Ever DIY Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Fix Feast Flair • Hokkaido Pumpkin + Sage Mac and Gouda

Will Frolic for Food • Pumpkin Kale Patties with Coconut Cilantro Rice

A Couple Cooks • Pumpkin Pecan Baked Steel Cut Oats

Vermilion Red • Pumpkin Pie Souffle

  1. Britnell • Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Displaced Housewife • Brown Butter Pumpkin Donuts

Sweet Gula • Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

La Pêche Fraîche • Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes

Kitchen Konfidence • Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce

Loves Food, Loves to Eat • Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Kale & Caramel • Goat Cheese & Sage-Stuffed Pumpkin Challah

Okie Dokie Artichokie • Pumpkin Chorizo Chili with Sweet Potatoes + Pinto Beans

Salted Plains • Easy Pumpkin Bread

Liliahna • Chicken Legs with Pumpkin and Tortellini

TermiNatetor Kitchen • Whole Wheat, Pumpkin & Brown Sugar Brioche

Vermilion Roots • Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin

Celebrate Creativity • Pumpkin Mini Cheesecake Tarts

Serendipity Bakes • Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

So Much Yum • Vegan Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts

The Brick Kitchen • Pumpkin, Pecan & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Lisli • Pumpkin Pie Cake

Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt • Pumpkin Pie Dip

Fig+Bleu • Pumpkin Granola

The Speckled Palate • Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies

Cook Til Delicious • Fall Cliche Cake (Pumpkin Spice Cake / Maple Cream Cheese Frosting / Apple Cider Caramel Sauce)

Floating Kitchen • Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

The Wood and Spoon • Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting

Fork Vs Spoon • Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Lemon & Vanilla • Pumpkin and Coconut Caramel Flan

Dunk & Crumble • Pumpkin Chocolate Icebox Cake

Chicano Eats • Pumpkin Butter Pan de Muerto

On the Plate • Pumpkin Pancakes, Salted Caramel & Pecans

Rough Measures • Cosy Pumpkin Spice Latte (Caffeine and Dairy Free)

Brewing Happiness • Pumpkin Ginger Breakfast Cookies

A Butterful Mind • Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Whipped Cream

The Little Loaf • Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Fork to Belly • Pumpkin Gnocchi

The Little Epicurean • Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie

Bourbon and Honey • Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Honey and Feta

What to Cook Today • Spicy Pumpkin Noodle Soup

Food by Mars • Pumpkin Pie (Grain-Free, Diary-Free)

The Bojon Gourmet • Pumpkin Butterscotch Pudding

Oh Honey Bakes • Pumpkin Cake with Gingersnap Toffee

Long Distance Baking • Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake

The Jam Lab • Pumpkin Madeleines Dipped in White Chocolate

The Lemon Apron • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with an Olive Oil Glaze

Sun Diego Eats • Thai Pumpkin & Sticky Rice Cakes

A Cozy Kitchen • Pumpkin Chai Scones with Black Tea Glaze

A Cookie Named Desire • Pumpkin Shrubs

Eating Clean Recipes • Vegan Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Kingfield Kitchen • Vegan Fresh Pumpkin Soup

Drink and Cocktail Recipes • Pumpkin Dirty Chai

The Pig & Quill • Pumpkin Sage Cannelloni (Dairy-Free)

My Lavender Blues • Pumpkin, Banana & Olive Oil Bundt Cake

Betty Liu • Pumpkin + Pear Butter Baked Melty Cheese

Happy Hearted Kitchen • Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin with Tahini Yogurt + Hazelnut Dukkah

InHappenstance • Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter

Live Eat Learn • Pumpkin Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

Pumpkin Gnocchi
Recipe makes 3-4 servings.

for the gnocchi
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dark brown sugar, packed
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
optional: edible food coloring marker

1. In a large bowl, add in the ricotta, pumpkin puree, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and pepper. Mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined. Add in the flour to the wet ingredients and fold until the dough comes together. It will be quite sticky.
2. Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface. Add more flour to the top of the mound of dough and pat it down into an even slab, about 1/4 inch thick. Use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter to cut out the gnocchi and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment and dusted with flour. Try to cut out as many little pumpkins as possible on your first go. You can re-roll the scraps but the cooked gnocchi won’t be as light as the first round.
3. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Separate the gnocchi into two batches. Boil the each batch until the gnocchi begin to float (2-3 minutes). Cook for an additional minute, then remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon. Use a paper towel or kitchen towel to blot off excess water while the gnocchi is still on the spoon, then transfer to another baking tray lined with a silpat or parchment. If you don’t want to cook all the gnocchi at once, you can store extra uncooked gnocchi in the freezer until ready to use again. Freeze them first separated on a baking tray, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
4. Once the gnocchi have cooled and dried, use an edible food coloring pen to paint on the jack-o-lantern faces. Make sure to let the food coloring dry completely before adding your desired pasta sauce. I served mine tossed with a few tablespoons of brown butter, crispy sage, and grated parmesan.

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milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly
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Fork to Belly is 3 years old!!! THREE WHOLE YEARS. I can’t imagine how much money I’ve spent on things like butter, flour, and sugar – fun fact: I originally dabbled with using the domain “flourbuttersugar” – or how different my life would feel without getting to connect with so many sweet and truly wonderful people through food and the internet. Who says internet friends can’t be some of the best friends? 🙂

This year’s cake is a version of the ever so wonderful Milkbar Birthday Cake. I’ve never had a slice of one myself, but this cake has been on my to-bake list since I first started this blog. It’s only fitting I’d share it here today in celebration of another year. I swapped the rainbow sprinkles for white and vanilla frosting for strawberry, but the recipe has stayed relatively unchanged after that. What I love so much about this cake is it’s so damn different than any other cake I’ve ever made. The frosting isn’t sweet but the cake itself is, and all the different textures going on? MMM MMM MMM. The crunch of the crumbs and incredible silkiness to the frosting… my mouth is watering just remembering how delicious this cake was! It’s not an easy recipe but if you break it up over 2-3 days it won’t seem so hard at all.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

Last week I turned 25 and I am so happy and my heart so full from all the surprises I’ve had in the past few days. As a munchkin I always wanted my parents to throw me some elaborate surprise party. You know, the ones you see in movies where you think none of your friends can make it and you get home turn on the lights and everyone pops up with balloons and presents and a giant cake? That never happened, at least not to me – until this year’s birthday where I had three surprise parties over the course of three days. By the end of it, I was so filled with alcohol and cake I could barely move.

I knew my old college roommate was planning something the weekend before I left for Hawaii because she refused to let me know anything about it. Saturday night, I opened my front door to a small barrage of hugs from my dearest friends in LA, one of the most obnoxious balloons I’ve ever loved so much, a pizza, and a dozen cupcakes from my favorite shop in Downtown. I got to see an old friend from college who’d recently moved back to the city and we drank champagne and sipped whiskey from Roy’s fancy tumblers and played celebrity fish bowl. We made our way over to 7th and Grand where my now very intoxicated college roommate told the bartender it was my birthday and therefore I should get a drink on the house. We ended the night with a quick stop for tacos and I later dug into a cupcake or two or three before collapsing on my bed.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

The next night, Roy and I headed over to my Aunt & Uncle’s for homemade Persian food where I ate my weight in tahdig and was later surprised with a tiramisu birthday cake served with the most amazing new Häagen-Dazs flavor that I’m ashamed to have forgotten the name of. I’ve been blaming the fact that I left my camera cord and curling iron at home on the fact that I had to pack with my mind all foggy from too much food. And if any of that wasn’t already special enough, a few hours off the plane I was whisked away to a dinner with one of my mom’s friend which turned out to be another surprise birthday dinner Roy had planned with my parents and a few of our best friends at home.

Within the last week since I’ve been home I’ve noticed so many things that I hadn’t realized I’d missed, like the way light shines between the trees in the hours before dusk, waking to the pitter patter of rain, cool winds and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, the endless blue sky and all its big billowy clouds – so many things I was never too exceptionally amazed by growing up but now can’t seem to stop staring at. These days and moments in between have made me feel like the happiest girl and not just for the wonderful birthday surprises, but also to be able to be here on this little island that I hope to call home again for good someday.

milkbar strawberry milk cake pocky fork to belly

Strawberry Milk Cake
Adapted from Momofuku Milkbar. Recipe makes one 6-inch cake.

for the crumb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sprinkles
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tbsp clear vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugars, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles until well combined.
3. With the mixer on low speed, stream in the oil and vanilla extract. The mixture should start to clump together. Once this happens, stop the mixer and transfer the crumbs to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Break up any extra large clumps as needed. However, you will want a variety of sizes for the crumbs. Once baked, store in an airtight container if not using immediately. The crumbs will keep for 1 week at room temperature of 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

for the frosting
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
3 oz. cream cheese, cold
1 1/2 tbsp glucose
1 1/2 tbsp corn syrup
1 1/2 tbsp strawberry extract if available or strawberry jam
1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (300g) powdered sugar
3/4 tsp salt
a pinch of baking powder
a pinch of citric acid

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and cream cheese on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl afterwards.
6. With the mixer on low, pour in the glucose, corn syrup, and strawberry extract or jam. Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until the mixture turns silky smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
7. In a separate bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid. Add the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and beat on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes. The frosting should be very smooth and resemble the kind you can buy in a plastic tub at the grocery store. If making ahead of time, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

for the cake
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sprinkles, separated

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a quarter sheet pan (10 x 15 in.) and line with parchment paper and set aside.
9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugars on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the eggs and mix for another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
10. With the mixer on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Increase the mixer to medium-high speed for 4-6 minutes until the mixture doubles in size and is completely homogenous. Do not rush this step. Make sure that there are no uncombined streaks of fat or liquid in the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
11. On the mixer’s lowest speed, add in the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of sprinkles. Mix for 45-60 seconds until the batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
12. Pour the batter into the sheet pan and use a spatula to spread the batter out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sprinkles around the top of the batter.
13. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check the cake at 30 minutes by poking the top with your finger. If the cake bounces back then it’s done baking. If not, leave it in for another 5 minutes and check again. Once ready, set on a wire rack to cool completely.

for the cake soak
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp clear vanilla extract

14. Whisk together the milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

assembly
Watch this video for visual reference!

vanilla crumbs
strawberry frosting, split into three even portions
one 10×15 in. layer of vanilla cake
1/4 cup of cake soak

1. Use a 6 inch cake ring to cut three rounds of cake from the single layer we baked in the sheet pan. My sheet pan was slightly larger and I was able to get four thinner layers in total. If using a 10 x 15 in. pan, you should get two full rounds and two half circles. Don’t throw away any cake scraps as that can be used to fill the gaps between the two half circles and act as another full layer of cake.
2. Cut a piece of acetate to fit flush against the sides of a 6 inch cake ring. Place the ring on a cake board or serving platter.
2. Gently slide a full round of cake down the acetate tube and tuck it into the bottom of the cake ring. Use a pastry brush and wet the bottom layer with the cake soak. Use a spoon to spread 1/3 of the frosting into an even layer on top the cake. Add crumbs.
3. Take the two half circles of cake and fit them over the top of the crumbs. Use extra cake scraps to fill any gaps between the two circles to form a cohesive layer. Add more cake soak, frosting, and crumbs, and repeat the same process for the last layer of cake. Decorate the top of the cake with as many crumbs as desired.
4. Transfer the cake to the freezer to firm up overnight. Let it defrost a little at room temperature before removing the acetate and cake ring the next day. One the frosting has become tacky, decorate with your favorite asian candies and serve!

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sutamina natto fork to belly
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I tried natto for the first time at a friend’s house on a warm summer night in Hawaii. I heard laughter coming from the kitchen as his Mom came into the living room and asked if I had ever had natto before. I followed her into the kitchen and saw a giant container of what I could only describe as sticky brown beans. Before I could say anything, I was promptly given a spoonful and cautiously took a nibble. After everything I’d heard about natto, I expected to hate it. But despite the slight slimey-salty-stinkiness of it – I didn’t. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it enough to go out of my way to… but let’s just say I could if I had to. After finishing the spoonful, I swallowed hard and wrinkled my nose while my friends broke into laughter.

sutamina natto fork to belly sutamina natto fork to belly

sutamina natto fork to belly

For those who aren’t familiar, natto is a traditional Japanese dish made of fermented soybeans. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast in Japan. The taste of natto is an acquired one (kind of like beer but on a whole ‘nother level). In the years to come, I’d try natto again every so often. Always curious to see if I’d finally start to love it as much as my friend Steph does – but then again, she’ll eat just about anything. It wasn’t until Roy started ordering something called Sutamina Natto at a Japanese restaurant we frequent in Little Tokyo that my tastebuds finally fell in love with natto.

sutamina natto fork to belly

There are many ways to serve natto. It can be eaten as is with a bit of hot mustard and soy sauce, served over a bed of warm rice, or in sushi. In Japanese, sutamina means energy or stamina. Hence, Sutamina Natto essentially means energy natto, which is a very fitting name considering all the ingredients in the dish. There’s a bunch of healthy protein from the tuna, natto, and egg yolk as well as all the added health benefits from the mountain yam and even fiber from the okra. I love the taste and I love that it’s good for the body. Fermented foods are great for gut health! Just a little disclaimer: if you’re not too familiar with natto or mountain yam or don’t enjoy the consistency of okra or runny egg yolk, the texture might be a little off putting the first time you try it. I did nickname this dish the “slimey bowl” the first time trying it. It took several months of sneaking bites from Roy, but now I finally do enjoy eating natto!!! I think it’s delicious, and I hope this recipe inspires some of you to try natto if you haven’t already 🙂

sutamina natto fork to belly

sutamina natto fork to belly

Sutamina Nattō
1/3 cup of sashimi grade tuna, cut into chunks
1 packet of natto, store-bought
3 okra pods, sliced and boiled for about 30 seconds
2 stalks fresh green onion, chopped
1/4 cup grated nagaimo, mountain yam (about 2 inches worth)
1 yolk from a quail egg
2 small pieces of nori seaweed
wasabi
soy sauce to taste

special tools
ceramic grater

1. After prepping all ingredients, choose a shallow bowl for serving.
2. In a counter clock-wise order, add the okra, sashimi, and natto. Leave room for the mountain yam between the natto and okra. Carefully pour in the mountain yam. Add a heaping tablespoon of green onion to one side of the natto. Carefully place the yolk near the center of the dish so it rests on the mountain yam.
3. To garnish, slide the two pieces of nori underneath the natto and sahimi. Add a dash of soy sauce to the mountain yam and place a bit of wasabi on the natto. Serve immediately. *Pro tip: Use chopsticks to stir everything together and season with a little more soy sauce if desired!

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korean fried chicken cake fork to belly
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I‘ve been laughing to myself all week – so excited to share this with you guys because look at this absolutely ridiculous cake. Roy’s Birthday has so far been one of my greatest baking challenges on the blog each year. How do you make a birthday cake for someone who doesn’t like dessert? That’s honestly almost like trying to recommend a book to someone who hates reading. The funny thing is that at certain points in the year, he’ll crave donuts or ice cream for a week and I’ll come home to a half eaten box of Krispy Kreme on the counter and pints of Häagen-Dazs taking up precious space in the freezer. Last year I thought I could get away with making a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. It was one of my favorite ice creams I’d ever made, but a rather failed attempt in my book because he only ever asked for one slice. It obviously was not ice cream week.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

So this year I took a different approach. Inspired by the Fried Chicken Cake by Bree’s Cakes that took over the internet a year or so ago, I tried my own hand at this savory cake and oh whoa has it changed my perspective on the definition of a *birthday cake*. If there’s one thing in this world Roy loves to eat, it’s fried chicken. His favorite spot lately has been Kyochon and their honey wings, which is where I got the kfc style chicken wings sitting atop this cake. They’ve got that typical Korean-style thickly battered and uber crunchy exterior, but made a million times amazing by it’s sweet and salty flavor.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

I have always been about desserts, and sweet birthday cakes – decorated in marzipan, fondant, drizzled with ganache, topped with light and airy meringues – are what I know best. Naturally, I was really intimidated when it came to obstacles like using mashed potatoes in place of buttercream. There are so many ways to make mashed potatoes and the key part of a successfully iced cake is the consistency of the frosting. You can’t exactly Google “mashed potato frosting recipe”. I was also worried about getting the mac & cheese layers to hold together when removed from the pan. There were so many things I wasn’t sure about as I started getting to work in the kitchen, but the craziest thing about this cake is that it might just be the easiest cake I’ve ever made. Sometimes dessert recipes can be so challenging, but mac & cheese? Cornbread? Mashed potatoes? All so incredibly simple! PS did I mention that every component is even more delicious than I had hoped for??

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

The KFC Cake works like this: one layer of mac & cheese, one layer of cornbread, and another layer of mac & cheese, frosted with mashed potatoes, topped with Korean fried chicken wings, and drizzled with honey. Those problems I was worried about initially were solved with a little basic cooking knowledge. The mashed potatoes require a lot of butter and some warm milk to make the consistency extra smooth and spreadable. For the mac & cheese, I added eggs to the mixture to bind everything together (think quiche). It worked perfectly. Plus, I’ve discovered some new go-to recipes when it comes to making some all-American dinner classics.

We had a bunch of friends over this past weekend to celebrate Roy’s birthday. The cake was a hit! And the fact that I can pack Roy and I a slice of leftover *cake* for lunch is just the cherry on top.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

(not sponsored by Absolut Vodka…)

The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) Cake

for the macaroni & cheese layers
16 oz. box elbow macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese, melted
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1 cup for sprinkling)
salt and pepper
4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line the bottom of two 8-inch pans with parchment rounds and set aside.
2. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain the water and return the macaroni back to the pot.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the milk with the melted butter and cream cheese. Whisk lightly until evenly combined.
4. With the burner on a low heat, add the milk mixture and shredded cheddar to the pot with the macaroni. Stir together gently until the shredded cheese has also started to melt. Remove the pot from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once seasoned, fold in the beaten eggs until evenly distributed throughout the macaroni.
5. Split the macaroni evenly between the two 8-inch pans. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese on top of the macaroni. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Halfway through baking, the pans may need to be rotated so the top of the macaroni is evenly browned. The macaroni may rise quite a bit towards the end of baking. As soon as it is removed from the oven, it should settle down into an even layer. Make sure both layers have cooled completely before moving onto the assembly.

for the cornbread layer
Adapted from Life Made Simple Bakes
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal, which gave the cornbread a great gritty texture)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and line the bottom of one 8-inch pan with a parchment round and set aside.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
8. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, and honey. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in the buttermilk. Taking the flour mixture, add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions. Mix well with a spatula until there are only a few lumps left.
9. Pour the cornbread batter into the prepared pan. Let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before baking. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and a cake skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before assembling the cake.

for the mashed potato icing
1200g starchy potatoes (I used yukon gold)
2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, warm
salt and pepper

10. Wash and peel each potato, then quarter into even pieces. Rinse well with cold water and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Set on the stove over medium-high heat until the potatoes are so tender they almost fall apart (about 20-30 minutes).
11. Drain the potatoes and place back in the pot. Cook again over medium-high heat for a few minutes until any excess water evaporates from the pan. Transfer to a large bowl.
12. Use a potato ricer or potato masher to mash up the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
13. Add the butter to the mashed potatoes about a tablespoon at a time, using the potato masher to mix the butter and potatoes together. Once all the butter has been incorporated, begin adding in the milk. You may not have to use all of the milk so try adding a little at a time until you reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Season again with salt and pepper as needed.

assembly
14. Place one layer of mac and cheese on desired serving dish. While the mashed potatoes are still warm, ice the first layer. Add the cornbread layer, ice, and add the final mac and cheese layer on top. Crumb coat the entire cake and let chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
15. Use the rest of the mashed potato to finish icing the entire cake. I placed the last bit of mashed potatoes in a piping bag fitted with a star piping tip to create the swirly dollops crowning the top of the cake. Finish off with either homemade or your favorite store-bought fried chicken (I used the honey wings from Kyochon in Koreatown – it’s Roy’s FAVORITE) and drizzle honey down the sides just before serving. ENJOY, FRIENDS!!!!

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