Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Gardening Season

Last years class photo.
I realize reading this post may make you question the name of my blog. I mean after all the name implies that this blog may be solely about cupcakes....but its not. Cupcakes are just a part of my being and a large part of my business but I'm a much more diverse person overall. Along with my love for cupcakes, cake, Caribbean food, and Asian food I also have a new found love for gardening. I started planting last year as my own little urban renewal project. Living in the city its very common to be faced with only brick walls when you open your window. My front windows faces the street where trees and other plants are grown but my kitchen window faces this depressing grey wall that I just couldn't stand to look at anymore last year this time. After reading a couple of urban gardening blogs I set out to the farmers market with cash in hand and a hopeful green thumb. Last year was my first season growing and I learned a lot of things and I also scared myself half to death because despite my love for gardening I cannot stand BUGS and we all know where theres dirt there are creepy crawlies! Last summer I grew heirloom brandywine tomatoes, various herbs, peppers, petunias, marigolds, and a couple other flower varieties.
My baby Brandywines from last year

Gardening overall is hard work but its even harder when its done in a small space such as a fire escape. Even though its hard growing your own plants is one of the most rewarding experiences. Even if you don't have access to a rooftop/yard/or fire escape you can grow a few herbs of flowers on a windowsill or counter that has access to sunlight. Target and my local farmers markets have been great resources for me. Target has cute pails and gardening tools in their dollar section, even seeds are available in the dollar section. In Targets outdoors department there are more seed varieties and plant containers you can buy. Farmers markets have starter plants that you can buy throughout the growing season if you don't want to grow from seed. The farmers can also give you tips on how to care for your plants when you get home.
This year I have tried to challenge myself by buying seeds to start most of my plants instead of only buying starter plants from the nurseries. Its the last week in April and so far I have sunflowers, wildflowers, asters, morning glory's, curly parsley, chive, big boy tomatoes, and some other herbs from last year. R.I.P to my habenero pepper plant, sage, and spanish thyme they just didn't make it through the rough winter.
This years class so far..they are still babies but their coming along.
As soon as extra money presents itself I will be planting some hanging vine plants to cover the entire top of the fire escape to create my own urban oasis.  I also want to plant carrots, cucumbers, a next variety of tomatoes, and some more herbs.  I learned so much between last year and this year garden wise and I hope to keep learning and improving my green thumb. Maybe you all will decided to start up a few plants of your own like some fresh herbs to sprinkle on your dishes or even plant marigolds which help keep pest away from other plants and can be seeped in hot water to make a medicinal tea that is cleansing and detoxifying.  You can even plant wheat grass and make your own wheat grass shots instead of buying them.
Here are a few gardening tips from me to you:

1- Make sure you check your growing location for steady sunlight. Most plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
2- Use a good soil mix that contains organic material(compost), perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. you can make your own or sub with miracle grow.
3- Feed your plants regularly for the best possible growth. Read up on the individual plant so that you know when to feed them. 
4- Choose a container with drainage holes to prevent water logging plant roots. You can make your own drainage holes in pots by using an ice pick if they don't already have.
5- To make your garden more eco friendly you can reuse old bottles and containers to plant seeds. 
6- Beware of garden pest! If you notice an infestation try to take care of it asap! 
In the picture below I had a problem with fungus gnats in my sweet pea seedlings and sprinkling ground cinnamon on the entire plant helped to get rid of them.
Finally don't hesitate to contact you local botanical garden for help with gardening. If you are in the Brooklyn Area the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers various gardening classes for beginners and experts! With that said I hope you decide to activate your green thumb...HAPPY GARDENING!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spicy Butter Rum Pan Seared Tilapia

Spicy butter rum pan seared tilapia...that's a long name ain't it!? Whew!
It is long but it accurately describes the entire dish. Tilapia is a pretty new fish to the pink room kitchen. I only started to cook with with it regularly a few months ago after having a bad experience with it as a teenager. The short version of the story is that one time my mom brought home tilapia fillets from one of our local supermarkets and when we put the fish to cook it reeked of BLEACH!!!! This isn't something unheard of in fish markets and you really have to get your fish from a reputable fishmonger. I have a good rapport with my local fish market and they always suggest really good fish. One day the fish I was looking for wasn't available and they suggested I try tilapia so I went for it. I've been in love with it since.  So far I have only been pan searing it but ill venture into new cooking techniques with tilapia eventually. Today's recipe only uses a few ingredients and its pretty quick which makes it perfect for weeknights. I have mentioned my love for Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar before but if you don't want to go all the way to TJ's you can just use red/white wine vinegar that should be available in most supermarkets.
I love this stuff!
 I made this recipe twice using two different dark rums from my family's island of Trinidad. I first use Angostura 1919 and then I used the very newly available(only in Trinidad) Angostura Single Barrel rum. I personally like the recipe using the single barrel more but only by a very little bit. You don't have to limit yourself to these rums that I mentioned(granted I would like you to and to support the Trinidadian products) you can use any dark rum you have on hand. I ate this fish with brown rice and sauteed greens but you can serve this your favorite green salad to keep things light. Oh..and why not use the extra rum to mix up a Caribbean cocktail to accompany this awesome dish. Enjoy!

Spicy Butter Rum Pan Seared Tilapia
Serves 2
2 Tilapia fillets
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup orange champagne muscat vinegar(or other kind)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp canola oil
1 large tomato chopped
2 tbsp rum

- marinate tilapia fillets in lime juice, vinegar, green seasoning, red pepper flakes, and salt for a half hour to an hour.
- heat butter and oil in  nonstick skillet over high heat until butter starts to turn slightly brown.
- add in fish fillets immediately along with marinade liquid.
- cook fish for 3 minutes on the first side and then flip to finish the fish.
- tomatoes can be added in now
- cook fish for another 3 minutes or until fully opaque and turn off the stove.
- immediately pour the 2 tablespoons of rum over the fish.
- serve as soon as possible

Monday, April 25, 2011

Prim and Proper Petit Fours

My moms birthday was last week thursday and I wanted to make something special for her along with challenge myself to make something a lil harder than what Im used to...I strive for excellence always so I have to push myself. With that said I decided a regular cake wouldnt do and maybe petit fours would be in order. The recipe was not hard to do at all but it was tedious especially when it have to covering every little piece of cake in poured fondant. I dont think I will add these to my catering menu because it is to labor intensive for a one man team and I want to tweak the recipe a bit. Nonetheless my mom was very surprised, she loved her petit fours and that was all the thanks that I needed.  If you would like the recipe it can be found at Baking 911.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Homemade Flaky Layer Biscuits

Flaky Buttery Goodness!

I always liked the grands flaky layer biscuits that are available in the supermarket. Since I have been trying to make all of my store bought favorites at home I decided to attempt these flaky layer biscuits. Well not really I just had some buttermilk I needed to use. This recipe from looked really delicious with all the individual buttery layers so I decided I would give it a try. The first few steps are pretty easy but when it comes time to make the folds that is when things get serious. Unlike regular biscuit making this particular recipe is like making puff pastry with all the folds involved. I recommend using a silpat or any silicone baking sheet to roll out the biscuits instead of a table top along with a bench knife to remove the dough easier. These biscuits bake up with a crispy bottom and top and buttery flaky layers in between. This recipe is  just really tasty, and makes for a wonderful treat during a special dinner.

Homemade Flaky Layer Biscuits
Adapted from

4 1/2 cups white lily all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter or 1/2 cup margarine or 1/2 cup shortening, cut into pieces
1 3/4-2 cups cold buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened to room temperature,cut into 1 tablespoon portions
2 tablespoon unsalted butter or 1 tablespoon margarine, melted,for brushing tops

- Preheat oven to 450° (500° if using a convection oven).
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
- Cut cold butter or shortening into dry ingredients with a pastry blender.
(Mixture will resemble coarse crumbs, with no large chunks of butter.) If butter gets very soft at this point, refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
- Add 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, stirring just to moisten all ingredients.
Dough should be soft and moist; add remaining 1/4 cup as needed.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead gently about 10 times, or just until dough holds together.
- Roll or pat dough into a 14-by-10-inch rectangle.
- With short side nearest you, spread top two-thirds of dough with 3 tablespoons soft butter, leaving bottom third, closest to you, un-buttered.
- Fold dough into thirds (like you would fold a letter) by pulling bottom third up over center and then pulling top third over middle.

- Turn dough so short side faces you.
- Pat into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle.
- In same manner, spread again with 3 tablespoons soft butter and fold letter style.
- Turn once more in the same manner.
- Pat into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle; spread with remaining 3 tablespoons soft butter and fold up.
- Work quickly and gently so as not to overwork dough.
- Pat dough into rectangle 3/4-inch thick on floured surface.
- Cut into squares with a sharp chef's knife.
- Place on pan, 1 inch apart.
- Lightly brush tops with melted butter.
- Bake in center of hot oven about 15-20 minutes (about 12 minutes in convection), until golden brown and firm.
- Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fish Tacos with Tomato Pepper Salsa

This one didn't have any lettuce..yummy none the less.

Growing up my dad loved making tacos for dinner...along with sloppy joes and spaghetti it was one of the easiest things he could make outside of barbecue season to satisfy the picky palette of three little kids. Back then the tacos of choice were either ground beef or chicken but now after going pescetarian ill stick to fish, shrimp, or veggie tacos. I usually buy my fish tacos from a local Mexican spot called Chavella's for $3.50 a pop! They do taste great but being on a budget $3.50 for a small taco can add up to a big bill when trying to feed a few people so I decided its about time that I attempt my own. I did look over a few recipes to get a general idea of what I needed to do but decided that I would create my very own recipe. This isn't the quickest recipe and require a considerable amount of time for prep but it is so worth it. This recipe makes enough to fill six large soft tortillas.

Tomato Pepper Salsa
1 large carrot cut julienne
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1tbsp granulated sugar
salt and pepper to taste
6 jalapeños cut small dice
1 small red onion small dice
1 bulb garlic, peeled and cut small dice
1 tsp olive oil
1 yellow pepper cut medium dice
2 large tomatoes cut medium dice
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tbsp lime juice

-Place a small pot of water on the stove under high heat, when it comes to a boil, place carrots in the water for 1 minute, remove and place strained carrots in ice water to cool.
- When carrots are cooled strain and set aside.
- In large bowl pour in vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil, whisk until emulsified, continue to whisk and add in sugar, then finally add salt and pepper to taste (this is your dressing for the veggies).
- Put dressing to the side and place a large saute pan under medium/high heat and place 1 tsp olive oil in pan.
- When the oil is shimmering add in onions, garlic, and jalapenos. Saute until onions turn clear.
- Toss in yellow peppers and cook for one minute more and then turn off the stove.
- While you allow the onion mix to cool, take carrots, tomatoes and parsley and toss into vinegar dressing. 
- Now add in onion mixture to dressing, toss, and finish with 1 tbsp lime juice. Set aside.

Fish Tacos
1/2 small head of lettuce, washed and chopped
6 soft flour tortillas
6 boneless fillets of white fish such as tilapia
juice of 2 limes
2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp of your favorite taco seasoning (optional)
1 tbsp golden ray cooking butter (if available)
2-3 tbsp canola/vegetable oil

- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Take tilapia fillets and toss in mixture of lime juice, lemon pepper seasoning, chili powder, red pepper flakes, green seasoning, and taco seasoning.
- Heat large skillet under high heat with golden ray(if using) and canola/vegetable oil.
- When oil is slightly smoking add in fish fillets.
- While fish is cooking spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place tortillas on it and place in the oven to warm.
- Fillets should be opaque by now, so begin to break fish into pieces.
- If fish pieces are fully opaque turn off the stove.
- Remove tortillas from the oven.
- Fill tortillas with fish mixture and top with chopped lettuce, tomato pepper salsa, and a lil sour cream...Voila!!! Dinner is served

** Many persons of Caribbean/West Indian background like to soak their seafood and meats in a lemon juice/salt/vinegar mixture to "cut the freshness" of the meat/fish. Its not a necessary step for this recipe but you can do prior to cooking it if you need to or if its just habit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Pot De Cremes

My sister is a chocolate pudding person like Jello and Snack Pack Chocolate pudding use to be the end all and be all of snacks for her up until last recent time it seems as if shes grown tired of the readily available chocolatey stuff. In my attempt to revive her love for chocolate pudding, finally use my ramekins, and use some leftover egg yolks...I decided to try out Chocolate Espresso Pot De Cremes. I think the recipe is very easy and quick outside of the three hour chill time, but this is an simply elegant recipe that can make you receive oohs and aah's come dessert time. Ramekins will cost you about $2.00 or less for one but I must say that the colored ones you see in the photos are from target and cost $2.50 for four in the dollar section. The chocolate I used was Trader Joes Dark Chocolate Pound Plus bar that I had in the house, its very good chocolate but if you want it to be extraordinary try something like Valrhona or Barry Callebaut chocolate which may be available if high end supermarkets like Whole Foods and other specialty stores. I also want to say that the recipe does call for espresso but not everyones pallette takes kindly to the strong coffee flavor so if you have young children or non coffee lovers you may want to cut down to half a teaspoon or even a 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder. I am still waiting for my sister to give this a taste but so far one person thinks it has too much coffee in it and one person loves it, I had some even though I don't too much care for mousse like desserts but I think it was lovely. The dark chocolate and espresso compliment each other well and the smooth silky texture is something that no cup of store bought pudding will have!  I am hoping jasmine likes it..if not I will just continue to make and tweak it till its her taste. I also hope that you all decide to try this recipe as its soo each with a lil whip cream and your ready to wow them!

Chocolate Espresso Pot De Cremes
Yield: Makes 8 servings
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 5 1/2 hr (includes chilling)
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
½ tsp instant-espresso powder*
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Special equipment: 8 (4- to 5-oz) ramekins or pot de crème cups
Garnish: bittersweet chocolate curls (see cooks' note, below)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.
Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl, then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure and cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide custard among ramekins, then bake custards in a hot water bath , pan covered tightly with foil, until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour. (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Busy Busy Bee

I have been such a bad contributor to my own blog these days. I have an excuse(what another one!) though...I have been trying to get my own business up and running. Pink Room Caterers has been in the works for some years now off and on but I want it to be a household name soon. So far I have been doing a ton of orders for people but I am still not sure of the exact direction I want to take things so right now I am just selling what I can make..there isn't a set menu at the moment but I trust as time goes along I can figure out a select set of items I want to sell. I am also thinking of opening up an Etsy shop to ship certain things such as cookies and brownies. I feel blessed that things are going the way I want them to finally...I trust that they can only get better! Before I go I want to show you a few things I have been doing for my customers so that you know I just haven't been sitting on my tail lol! Soooo...if your in the Brooklyn/NYC area and need my services don't hesitate to contact me!
25th Birthday cupcakes!
Mint chocolate Cupcakes with hand drawn hearts!
Black and Gold Cupcakes for an 80th Birthday Party!
67th birthday party cake with hand drawn and hand painted stars!