Mini King Cakes for Mardi Gras!

Let the good times roll with these festive little cakes! Surprisingly, even with the Acadian blood I have running through my veins, I have never made a king cake! The cakes have a rich, interesting history: a combination of French, Spanish, and Catholic traditions dating back centuries, they are inarguably a very New Orleans tradition now. I did not include a plastic baby in my recipe, but feel free to add one (or eight) to yours. Click this link to learn more on the tradition.

IMG_8801The photos from this recipe are so colorful, and perfect for the Be Funky photo editing app! Check out my article on Creating Instagram Graphics for your Recipes to see some really fun, creative collages and graphics of my photos, and grab the recipe for these bold little cakes below.

I made my dough from scratch, but this could easily be, and often is, made with store bought, frozen bread dough. (I have some in my freezer right now—you will get no judgment from me). This is a great dough recipe though, very easy to work with.

And, If you want something savory to enjoy for your Mardi Gras celebration, give my Dad’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo a try!

Mini King Cakes

  • Servings: 8cakes
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Dough:

(Click Here To View Ingredients)

or use two large loaves of store-bought yeast bread dough, follow thawing instructions on package

Filling:

  • 4 tbs soft butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze and topping:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • tiny pinch of salt, about 1/8 tsp
  • Purple, green, and gold/yellow sprinkles

Cook first 4 dough ingredients in small saucepan over low heat until butter melts and ingredients are combined. Set aside and cool slightly.

Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 tsp sugar in a glass measuring cup or bowl; let stand 5 minutes until yeast foams.

Beat cooled sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, egg, and 1 cup flour in stand mixer with paddle attachment until smooth. Reduce speed to low, add the rest of the flour, and once combined, switch to a dough hook and beat on medium low speed for 10 minutes.

Spray the dough with non-stick spray in the same mixer bowl, turning to coat the bowl and dough. Place bowl in a warm place covered loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let rise 90 minutes or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Combine all 3 filling ingredients and stir to make a smooth mixture.

Turn dough onto a clean surface, and flatten into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 4 even rectangles, about 6 inches by 12 inches each, Spread 1/4 of the butter mixture onto each rectangle in a thin, even layer.

Starting at the wide end, roll the dough toward yourself until you have a long thin log like a jelly roll. Repeat this with the remaining dough. When you have 4 long rolls, cut each on in half and pinch the seams and the ends together to form an oval ring, somewhere between a doughnut and a bagel sized ring. Do this with all 8 pieces of dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick spray and let rise for about an hour in a warm place. The best way to check that they are done rising is to give the dough a light poke with your index finger. If the dough springs back, they are not ready. If your finger leaves an indentation that remains, they are ready to bake!

Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 15 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool on wire racks while you prepare the glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in a large measuring cup or bowl. Once cakes have cooled for about 15 minutes, pour glaze over and quickly sprinkle to make a yellow, purple, green pattern. Allow to set and enjoy!

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Valentine’s Day: Nutella and Jam Pie Pops

I am so excited to share this recipe for a few reasons. First, I created it for my first guest blog writing gig with BeFunky.com, an amazing, user-friendly, and really cool photo editing application. All of the photos and collages in this post were edited and created using the app. The collage credit goes to JC Gibbs. She really helped me out this first post, and I am so grateful and lucky to be working with her!  Nutella Jam Pops RecipeNext, it is the first time my little hand model is being featured on my blog—she was very excited to be a part of the process. Look at those hands! Long fingers and short nails like her mama. (and that little freckle… Sigh.)

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And finally, this is just such a cute, fun recipe! My daughter and I had such a fun time creating, baking, sharing, and eating these treats! You can customize the fillings to suit your tastes, change the shapes and sprinkles to suit any holiday or occasion. Have fun and let your little ones help!

Nutella Valentine Pie Pops Recipe

Follow this link to get the recipe and see my first BeFunky blog post!:

Baking Valentine’s Treats With Kids: Nutella & Jam Pops!

Nutella Kids Pie Pops Recipe3

A small drinking glass or two works well for displaying them, or a super cool antique wooden thing-a-ma-jig you picked up at a thrift shop years ago.IMG_8471Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope your day is filled with sweetness and love. And maybe this Crème Brûlée recipe of mine.

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Southeast Asian Chicken Wings

I love Asian flavors. As I’m sure you are all aware, my father has been my biggest culinary influence, but what you might not know is that he cooked a lot of Asian food when I was a kid. I remember a well-thumbed cookbook he had with a blue cover that was full of stir fry recipes and other Asian delicacies. My favorite then and now is without a doubt his fried rice. It’s the best, it’s never quite the same, and it’s one of those recipes I’ve mentioned before that I make when I’m really missing him—my comfort food.

Serendipitously, my father’s lifetime love of all things Asian culminated in his second marriage to a Chinese woman a few years ago. They had a beautiful wedding in Mauritius. Now, when he isn’t gallivanting in far away lands, I get to not only enjoy his incredible cooking—Asian-inspired or otherwise—but I get to enjoy my stepmother’s as well: platters of incredible, from-scratch, handmade dumplings, steamed or pan-fried depending on the filling, stir-fries, really interesting salads filled with exotic ingredients.

These dumplings are one of those things that cause my usual capacity for food to grow exponentially. My son, too. He can eat more than I can, and that’s really saying something. You’ve heard of a dessert stomach? Well, my son and I have dumpling stomachs. My daughter loves them, too, though not quite as enthusiastically as Aidan and I.

She tried to teach us how to make them once, it was quite entertaining; by the time we had each sloppily made one, she had a perfect row of about 10.

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My stepmother’s dumplings

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She usually pan-fries the beef filled dumplings and steams the pork or seafood filled dumplings. They are all so delicious.

Anyway, I think my most craved style of cooking is Asian, whether Thai, Chinese, or Japanese (sushi!), I just love the flavors so much. I always have ginger, garlic, onions or scallions, a multitude of sauces hanging out in my pantry or fridge—soy, hoisin, oyster sauce, fish sauce, thai curry pastes. I always have rice and noodles in my pantry. So when the whim strikes, I can whip up something to satisfy my cravings pretty quickly. These wings were the result of one such craving. I had lemongrass that I bought thinking I would make a Thai style coconut soup, but this is how it met its fate. These wings are beautiful and almost too easy to believe, but most importantly, they are delicious little flavor bombs.

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Stunningly gorgeous lemongrass

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lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise, five spice powder

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wings ready for the oven

Make them. They’ll disappear.

**This recipe could easily be doubled or even divided to make a single serving. Just make sure you use a baking dish that allows the wings to lay in a single layer**

Southeast Asian Chicken Wings

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 pounds chicken wings, tips removed and wing cut into two pieces
  • one inch chunk of fresh ginger, roughly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and gently cracked
  • 1/2 of a fresno chili pepper or other hot chili, sliced, seeds removed if desired
  • 1-2 stalks of fresh lemongrass, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3-4 whole star anise pods
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry or other dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

for serving:

  • Handful of fresh cilantro
  • the other half of the chili pepper finely diced
  • 2-3 green onions thinly sliced

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 375.

Place all ingredients in a baking dish so that wings lay in a single layer. Toss to evenly coat and distribute ingredients.

Place in preheated oven, bake for an hour, flipping about every 15 minutes. When most of the liquid has evaporated and begins to look thick and syrupy turn broiler on to crisp the tops. Keep an eye on them, the sugar and soy can burn very quickly. This should only take about 2 minutes max. Remove when they look glossy and have gotten brown and crispy in spots.

Move to serving platter, strain and pour over any juices left in baking dish. Generously sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, and fresh chili pepper. Enjoy!

Ps: I updated my “about” page. Check it out. “About Ani”

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Brown Sugar Peach Cobbler

Happy Fiesta Friday! Last Friday was such a blast and I made SO many new friends. Thank you to Angie at The Novice Gardener for hosting, as well as Hilda at Along the Grapevine and Julianna at Foodie on Board for co-hosting.

This week, we are hosted again by Angie, and our lovely co-hosts are Nancy at Feasting with Friends and Selma at Selma’s Table.

I am just blown away by the group of talented and gracious bloggers into which I’ve been welcomed. It is heartwarming and I can’t stop smiling about it.

You know what else is heartwarming, and tummy warming, and kitchen warming? This peach cobbler I created the other day.

It was a snow day, a disappointingly snowless snow day, but a snow day nonetheless, and I cannot and will not control my baking urges on snow days—something tells me I am not alone in this. It just makes sense; it’s cold outside, why not make the house smell amazing and stay warm inside with something fresh from the oven? So, I started rooting around in the freezer and found two bags of frozen, sliced peaches. This recipe isn’t very different from most cobbler recipes I’ve seen, but I go all brown sugar here. I adore brown sugar, and the combination of vanilla, brown sugar, and peaches just makes so much sense to my taste buds.

I hope you enjoy! (Still warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, if you please.)

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Brown Sugar Peach Cobbler

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 2 10-ounce bags frozen, sliced peaches
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 small pieces

Biscuit Topping:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup cream or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish—Rectangular or oval preferably.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients except butter and toss to combine. Place this mixture into the buttered baking dish and dot the top with the small pieces of butter.

Next, combine the flour, brown sugar, butter, baking powder and salt in a bowl and with a fork or a pastry cutter, mix until the butter is incorporated and you have a crumbly mixture. Stir the milk or cream, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl or measuring cup and add to the dry ingredients. Stir gently with a fork until you have a wet, biscuit dough. Drop this dough in little clumps all over the top of the peaches.

If desired, sprinkle top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until top is nice and brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let sit for about 15 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or just a generous splash of cream right over the top.

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Quick Asian Noodle Soup

I cannot claim that this is Pho or Ramen (real Ramen, not the flavor packet kind we are all familiar with). The defining characteristic of both of those noodle soups is the time and tradition that goes into their broths, it would be an oxymoron to call anything “Quick Pho,” so the food traditionalist in me simply cannot call it that! However, the flavors I’ve added to this broth are my favorite Pho flavors and I made this to satisfy a noodle craving, and it worked. So, call it whatever you want, but I promise you’ll call it delicious.

I used noodles I happened to have in my pantry from my last spellbinding trip down the international food aisle at Wegmans, but you could make this with any noodle you prefer. Rice noodles would be more Pho-like, I am wild about mung bean or cellophane noodles (sometimes called glass noodles) which would also be very good here, but you could even use spaghetti. Just cook your noodle of choice separately according to package instructions.

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Quick Asian Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • one package Japanese wheat noodles (I used Hakubaku Organic Ramen 9.5 ounce package) (or whichever noodles you prefer)
  • two quarts chicken or beef stock (or a combination)
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 one-inch piece of ginger, cut into large chunks, and another 1/2 inch piece peeled and very finely julienned for serving
  • 4 green onions, dark green parts reserved for stock, light green parts finely sliced on the diagonal for serving
  • 4 ounces Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved for stock, caps thinly sliced
  • one red fresno chili pepper, seeds removed and very finely sliced (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 whole star anise
  • small bunch of basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it, leaves removed and thinly sliced for serving, stalks reserved for broth
  • small bunch of cilantro, leaves removed for serving, stalks reserved for broth
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts for serving, 1/4 cup per serving

To prepare:

In saucepan, combine stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, dark green parts of green onions, shiitake stems, star anise pods, basil and cilantro stalks. Bring to boil, and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, strain stock and discard the simmered ingredients. Return stock to pan and add sliced shiitake mushroom caps. Simmer this gently while you cook the noodles.

Place a separate pot of water on to boil for the noodles, and cook according to package instructions.

Strain noodles and divide evenly between 4 bowls. Ladle stock over noodles and garnish each bowl with cooked shiitakes, bean sprouts, basil and cilantro leaves, pepper slices, ginger slices, and green onions. A squeeze of lime would be nice too!

Enjoy!

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Slow Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

Thanks to the lovely and talented Selma of Selma’s Table, a beautiful and delicious blog that I implore you to visit, I am participating in my very first blog party in celebration of Fiesta Friday’s first anniversary. Very exciting. There is such a wonderful community of bloggers, and I love meeting new friends who are so gracious and welcoming. I’m looking forward to meeting many more at the fiesta!

To get the party started, today’s theme is “happy hour,” and since happy hour isn’t complete without drinks and little bites I am sharing a few wine recommendations and my delicious recipe for slow roasted tomatoes, which I love to serve over goat cheese-topped, crispy baguette slices. Such an easy and beautiful appetizer. I hope you love it!

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Let’s begin with a drink, shall we? I am not much of a cocktail aficionado, but I am a wine lover, and these crostini pair beautifully with a crisp, cool white wine. These are my three favorites, and each one will compliment the tangy, creamy goat cheese, and the jammy, sweet tomatoes. It’s a winning combo whichever wine you choose. The first is Despagne Eclat de Sauvignon—a lovely, crisp white from the Bordeaux region of France. This wine won my heart with its refreshingly tart, almost effervescent grapefruit notes. I was pretty impressed with myself on this one, because I immediately tasted the grapefruit notes and, later, when I did some research I saw that many other tasters had described it this way! Next is my old standby: Pinot Grigio. I am a big fan of Cavit Pinot Grigio—Italian, crisp, fruity but not sweet. I have often described it as a very “friendly” wine, since everyone likes it and it’s always invited to the party. Finally, the H.B. Picpoul de Pinet is a wonderfully intriguing wine made in the South of France. It is crisp and dry with hints of citrus—delicate, floral, and really worth trying. These are three of my favorite whites—and guess what—they are all under $10 (at least they are at my local Wegmans!). In my opinion, good wine does not mean expensive wine. Drink what you love—life is too short to drink bad, expensive wine.

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Now, on to the recipe. A printable version is at the bottom of my post, but here is the step-by-step with photos.

**I originally published this recipe in a piece called “When Life Gives You Tomatoes, Make Crostini” on DCFud.com, a great online food magazine covering the DC metro area. Check it out!**

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

 Ingredients:

  • Lots of smaller tomatoes such as roma, cherry, or grape, halved—about 8 cups (they shrink during the roasting process)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch or two of red pepper flakes to taste
  • fresh herbs—oregano and thyme are my favorites
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss gently to coat the tomatoes and spread the entire mixture evenly on a parchment lined, large rimmed baking sheet or two sheets. You want an even layer with no overlapping.

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Roast for 4-6 hours, gently tossing occasionally (or just shake and rotate the pan). The time is broad, I know, but it depends on the juiciness and size of your tomatoes and your oven. The tomatoes will shrink and their juices will dry slightly. Don’t take them too far; you want them to still have some juiciness. This really needs to be judged by eye, so just check on them occasionally.

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Enjoy straight from the oven, or transfer, along with all juices and herbs, to a mason jar or other storage container, cover with more olive oil and store in refrigerator.

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Note: The olive oil will harden upon refrigeration. Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes before using.

Slow Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

Ingredients:

  • Baguette, or any good bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick on an angle
  • slow roasted tomatoes
  • Fresh goat cheese
  • Fresh basil

To prepare:

Drizzle or brush bread slices lightly with olive oil, and either toast in a 350 degree oven 10-15 minutes, or gently toast in a grill pan or skillet until lightly golden on both sides, but still tender in the middle. Transfer to a platter and smear with a tablespoon or two of goat cheese, top with oven roasted tomatoes, and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy!

Slow Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Slow Roasted Tomatoes:

Ingredients:

  • Lots of smaller tomatoes such as roma, cherry, or grape, halved—about 8 cups (they shrink during the roasting process)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch or two of red pepper flakes to taste
  • fresh herbs, oregano and thyme are my favorites
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss gently to coat the tomatoes and spread the entire mixture evenly on a parchment-lined, large rimmed baking sheet or sheets. You want an even layer with no overlapping.

Roast for 4-6 hours, gently tossing occasionally (or just shake and rotate the pan). The time is broad, I know, but it depends on the juiciness and size of your tomatoes and your oven. The tomatoes will shrink and their juices will dry slightly. Don’t take them too far; you want them to still have some juiciness. This really needs to be judged by eye, so just check on them occasionally.

Enjoy straight from the oven, or transfer, along with all juices and herbs, to a mason jar or other storage container, cover with more olive oil and store in refrigerator.

Note: The olive oil will harden upon refrigeration. Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes before using.

To make and assemble the Slow Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini:

Ingredients:

  • Baguette, or any good bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick on an angle
  • Oven roasted tomatoes
  • Fresh goat cheese
  • Fresh basil

To prepare:

Drizzle or brush bread slices lightly with olive oil, and either toast in a 350 degree oven 10-15 minutes, or gently toast in a grill pan or skillet until lightly golden on both sides, but still tender in the middle. Transfer to a platter and smear each with a tablespoon or two of goat cheese, top with oven roasted tomatoes, and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy!

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Dad’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Made this tonight. It was perfect. I updated my blog with a new theme and have added printer-friendly recipes! This is an older post, but I’ve updated the photos and added a printable recipe. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

cook on a whim

It might seem odd to associate gumbo with snow, but a few years ago, before a huge snowstorm blew through, I decided if I was going to be snowed in, I was going to make gumbo—just because. So, I ran to the store with the rest of Northern Virginia, and came home with the necessary loot. The next day I made it, and my house smelled like my Dad’s. Nothing else smells like gumbo; nothing else tastes like gumbo. It is warm, steeped in tradition, and so satisfying—just the kind of food you want when it’s icy cold outside.

So, naturally, a few days ago when the biggest snow storm since that one in 2010 was forecast, I went to the store with milk, bread, and gumbo supplies on my list. I made it last night for some dear friends—girl time and gumbo. Heart-warming and belly-warming. Just perfect.

I highly…

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