Continuing the festivities during Kevin’s birthday celebration weekend, I wanted to make some sort of Mexican breakfast (his favorite). If we are ever out to brunch and chilaquiles are on a menu, it’s a given that he will order it. I wanted to make a different kind of chilaquiles dish to mix it up from what you’d find in a restaurant and came across this Rick Bayless recipe on Food and Wine Magazine. I was drawn to the idea of a smoky chipotle chilaquiles dish, and I still had some chipotle chiles in the freezer from a previous recipe!
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or queso (I used a mix of shredded parm and cheddar)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 avocado (optional)
In a blender, combine the tomatoes with their reserved 1/2 cup of liquid and the chipotles; blend until almost smooth.
In a very large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add two-thirds of the onion and cook over moderately high heat until browned around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato puree and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
Gently stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are well coated. Top with the remaining onion, the shredded chicken, cheese, and a fried egg and 1/4 avocado per serving. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.
NOTE: The recipe makes 4 servings and can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. Reheat the chipotle-tomato sauce before proceeding.
*I decided to make my own baked tortilla chips instead of using store-bought chips or deep-frying. I highly recommend baking tortillas to make chips vs anything else, since you can slightly over-bake them to dry them out a bit more. That way, they won’t get too soggy in the chilaquiles sauce! I used a Food Network recipe and baked for 2 minutes longer than recommended.
**I highly recommend keeping a batch of shredded chicken on hand for any occasion. You can easily thaw and use it in salads, sandwiches, enchiladas (recipe forthcoming!), and of course, chipotle chilaquiles. The Kitchn’s instructions for making shredded chicken in a slow cooker is my favorite – it’s easy and you don’t lose any of the nutrients by boiling the chicken, nor moisture by using the oven. I strain the fat out of the stock after and use it for other things too!
For Kevin’s birthday this year, I made the last cake I’ll probably have time to bake for a long time. His side of the family came over for a celebration, and I wanted to make a cake with a lighter feel. I went with my favorite go-to chocolate cake recipe for the cake and added fresh strawberries and bananas in between the cake layers.
And instead of frosting, I went with a chocolate whipped cream after coming across the perfect recipe on The First Year. I also love the look of a naked cake, and tried to do something similar. However, I made the whipped cream a bit stiff so that it would hold up longer out of the fridge and it wasn’t as easy to spread.
When you want a whipped cream that will last longer, you should also freeze the mixing bowl and whisk you’re going to use in advance. With frosting, whipped cream, or any other recipes where texture is important and you’re adding lumpy dry goods to it, I also recommend sifting the ingredients to prevent lumps! Here’s the delicious chocolate whipped cream recipe as adapted from The First Year:
2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, and sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar into the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and the whipped cream holds its shape. Don’t over beat!
Use on cakes, cupcakes, pies, hot cocoa, etc. Place leftovers in a container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
It’s been crazy busy at work the last few months, so I parceled out my time spent on crafting/planning over the course of about six weeks. For decorations, I found a few fun colorful pieces on Amazon that livened up our otherwise intentionally monochromatic home – paper buntings, serapes, festive patterned tablecloths, and pom poms.
Kevin and I also ended up hosting Christmas dinner which was two weeks before the party, so we had to hide everything away before she came over. All of the streamers, party utensils, napkins, and plates were from Party City in every sort of bright color. I also bought a couple of cute craft kits from Paper Source – a mini pineapple pinata and a DIY set of six paper cacti. I used a white gel pen to add some “texture” to each cactus as well!
Jamie let me borrow her set of acrylic paints so I could add some color to the terra cotta pots I bought for the party favors. They held the miniature cactus candles. I also found some colorful candies to fluff up the favor bags.
Since Kevin and I had to go to a family wedding the morning of the party and with how long it takes to make cupcakes, I made these late the night before. I was worried the crunchy topping that the original recipe suggested would get soggy overnight, so I skipped that component completely. Here is the recipe as adapted from Lady Behind the Curtain, without the crunchy topping!
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
Whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla, and reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each. Fill each cupcake liner three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes.
Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.
Top with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Set out 20 minutes before serving
For Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until light.
Mix in vanilla and cinnamon; add confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time until all is incorporated.
Not having the time to actually paint anything, I searched online for some watercolor pieces to incorporate into the DIY dessert toppers, the invitation, favors, and more.
I had to keep the surprise from my brother as well until he came over, since he cannot keep secrets. My mom thought she was meeting at my place and carpooling with me to a restaurant nearby. I wanted to make sure I recorded her entrance, so I had my brother let her in the community gate when she arrived. Right before she walked in, he asked, “Are you ready?” Good thing she wasn’t already suspecting anything!
My mom was really surprised and had a wonderful time, and it’s always great to spend time with my rambunctious family!
For Jamie’s birthday nearly two years ago (yes – still drowning in a sea of backlogged posts), I made this fun little pintuck piece since she’d told me she was in the market for an apron. I found the tutorial on Wholly Kao, and wholeheartedly accepted the challenge. And boy, was it a challenge!
I don’t think I’ve made something this difficult since those baby booties a few years ago.
Here’s the tutorial as adapted from Wholly Kao, but having the diagrams she drew in her tutorial will really help you:
1 yard fabric for the apron
1/2 yard coordinating muslin (for the waist strap and ruffles)
MAKE THE TOP:
Measure the distance between your armpits to get the width of the chest. Take this width and subtract 4. This new number will be how wide your top part is at its widest point. Measure from your chest to your waist to get the height.
Take your patterned fabric and measure out a piece that is slightly larger than the width and height dimensions you just measured. Fold the fabric in half width-wise.
Using a Sharpie, draw your top shape onto the folded fabric. This shape should look like a heart with a flat bottom. The widest point of this ‘heart’ is your (chest width minus 4 inches) measurement. Cut along your Sharpie line. You’ve now got your top piece! You can measure it against yourself to make sure it’s not too wide. If it is, trim it accordingly.
MAKE THE BOTTOM:
Measure out a piece of fabric for the bottom part that is 36-inches wide. The height for this can be as tall as you want. For instance, if you want the apron to hit mid-thigh, measure the distance from your waist to your thigh and use this number as the height. Spread the fabric out and cut out the corners so that they’re rounded. (see diagram)
Now it’s time to make the pleats along the waist. Take the fabric at the top of the wide side and fold it accordian style and pin it in place. Do this only in the middle, leaving 6-inches on either side of the folds. Next, sew the folds in place, 1/4-inch in from the edge (see red dotted line in diagram).
Pin the top and bottom part together on the wrong side. Sew the two pieces together on the wrong side, 1/4-inch from the edge.
MAKE THE WAIST STRAP:
Cut a strip of muslin fabric (I chose a coordinating periwinkle shade) that is 5-inches tall and as wide as your bolt of fabric. Sew the ends of two of these straps together on the wrong side, making one really really long strap that is 50-inches long (This piece will tie around your waist, so you want to cut the length to fit you).
Fold the strap in half, making a 2.5-inch tall piece. Pin the ends together, then iron the fold flat.
Sew around the edges of the strap (red dotted line in diagram), 1/4-inch from the edge. Be sure to leave an opening on one side, so you can flip this piece inside-out.
Flip the fabric so that the raw edges are now on the inside. Then sew the open edge shut (red dotted line in diagram).
Now take the apron fabric and cut two strips that are 3-inches tall. Sew these together to make one long strip 50-inches long.
Fold each edge in 1/4-inch and pin in place. Iron flat. Center this strip on top of the white strip and pin.
MAKE THE NECK STRAP:
Cut a strip of apron fabric that is 2-inches tall for the neck strap. (The length of this depends on you: if you want a strap that is easy on and off, you can always put a buttonhole/button in the middle of this neck strap.)
Fold the strip in half, making a 1-inch tall piece. Pin the edges together, then iron flat. Sew along the edges, making sure to leave an opening on one side. Once you’re done sewing, flip the fabric inside out.
MAKE THE RUFFLES*:
*If you want, you can just buy pre-made ruffles by the yard at the fabric store instead. If you do that, skip to“Assembling the Pieces Together”.
Take the muslin fabric and cut it into strips that are 2-inches tall. Sew three of these together, making one really really long strap. Fold the strap in half.
Make small pleats all along the fabric, pinning them in place as you go.
Sew the ruffles in place, using the zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.
ASSEMBLING THE PIECES TOGETHER:
Take the sewn edge of the ruffles and line them up with the raw edges of the front side of the apron, so the ruffles lie on top of the patterned part of the fabric. Pin the ruffles around the apron this way, then flip the ruffles out so that they look like this (diagram).
Sew the edges together on the wrong side of the fabric. Then iron the front of the apron, where the fabric and ruffles meet.
Pin the neck strap in place behind the ruffles.
Now it’s time to sew everything together! Sew all along the apron, 1/4-inch in, making sure you sew the edges of the ruffle, as well as the straps in place.
Last step: attaching the waist strap. Center the waist strap between the top and bottom pieces of the apron, and pin it in place. Sew along the edges of the inner fabric on the strap (red dotted lines on diagram), making sure you’re attaching the apron to the strap in the process.
Here’s the finished product:
And here is the birthday girl!
While the apron turned out pretty cute (if I do say so myself) in the front, it was just a hot mess behind it. Lots of thread everywhere from places I went over and fixed, and I had a lot of thread-breakage issues for some reason with this project. I thought the tutorial was great with getting me to the end product, but there wasn’t a lot of thought put into covering up the unsightly back of the apron fabric.
In celebration of Shirley’s birthday last month, we decided to do a potluck/wine tasting. Shirley, Spencer, Leslie, Tri, Kevin, and I contributed wine from our favorite vineyards, and everyone brought something for dinner.
I volunteered to do dessert, and an ice cream cake seemed like a great idea to cool us off in the midst of the crazy heat wave.
I knew Shirley liked tiramisu, so why not combine the two and do a tiramisu flavored ice cream cake? I ended up combining various parts of three different recipes from MarthaStewart and The Delicious Life.
Here is the combined recipe, which was a big hit with our group:
Vanilla Sponge Cake
softened butter, for pan
1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 C cornstarch
4 large eggs, separated
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 C sugar
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
In a small bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg/sugar mixture to a large bowl. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk attachment.
Beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until whites hold soft peaks (about 2 minutes). With mixer running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. In three additions, fold the flour mixture into eggs. Pour cake batter into prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes (start checking on the cake at about 35 minutes).
Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes, then invert to remove from pan and cool completely on rack.
Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake
1 C sugar
1 1/2 C strong, freshly brewed espresso (I used espresso powder and hot water)
1/3 C coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua (optional)
1 recipe Vanilla Sponge Cake (above)
1/4 C finely ground espresso beans
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1.5 pints coffee ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
1-1.5 pints chocolate ice cream (I used Haagen Daaz)
Place sugar and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in espresso and Kahlua. Let the syrup cool.
Using a serrated knife, cut sponge cake in half horizontally, making two layers. Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Using a pastry brush, brush with 3/4 cup cooled syrup. Sift 2 tablespoons ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder over cake.
Place coffee ice cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake; top with second layer of sponge cake and press down gently. Brush with remaining syrup. Transfer cake to freezer for 20 minutes. If your springform pan leaks liquid like mine does, be sure to put your pan on top of a baking sheet or foil first.
Remove cake from freezer; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of ground espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Place chocolate ice cream in a mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until spreadable. Spread ice cream over cake, forming large swirls. Return to freezer; freeze until completely hardened.
While cake is freezing, make the marscarpone cream. Beat mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy, about 60 seconds, and then transfer to another bowl. In the same mixer bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form, slowly adding sugar if you want to sweeten it. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone cheese. Keep chilled until ready to serve. Then spread over top of cake, and garnish with chocolate curls or sift 1-1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder over top.
I started with two pints of ice cream, but my springform pan was not big enough to hold everything so I really think 1 pint each is enough. I also topped my cake with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder just to create an even layer with no marscarpone showing through (as below), and all six of us took turns choking on the cocoa powder. Unless you want the same affect, perhaps scale back to about 1 tablespoon overtop.
You can also sub the chocolate ice cream for espresso ice cream if you want more of a very strong coffee flavor. For the ground espresso, I went to Intelligentsia for their Black Cat espresso which is the best espresso in LA in my opinion. It turned out that the barista helping me was an avid baker as well, and we ended up having a lengthy conversation about the wonders of adding coffee in chocolate desserts. Long story short, she gave me about $8 worth of ground espresso for free!