Monthly Archives: January 2015

Day #1 of Holiday Appetizers: Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

“Eat Dessert First.” Good words to live by, if there ever were any. A cocktail party can’t survive on savory stuff alone, and for good reason. The holidays are bursting at the seams with fabulous dessert flavors like gingerbread, egg nog, cocao and peppermint, just to name a few. For my cocktail party I opted for the latter, combining chocolate and peppermint in a miniature whoopie pie rolled in crushed candy cane pieces. I made 21 whoopie pies and they were gone before the party was halfway through, disappearing off the tray as quickly as I could bring them out!

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Here’s how you make the Whoopie Pies. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Day #2 of Holiday Appetizer Recipes: Mini Mac & Cheese Cups!

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

WHOOPIE PIES

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (see Note), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk 

FILLING

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • One 7.5 ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff 
  • 3 drops peppermint extract
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint for rolling (gourmet versions available at Surfas, Sur La Table & specialty stores)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In the large bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients and milk in three alternating additions; scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

Combine dry & wet ingredients 

Using a tablespoon, scoop 12 level mounds onto each baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cakes in the lower and upper thirds of the oven for about 16 minutes, until risen and firm; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the sheets to racks and let the cakes cool completely. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, peppermint extract and vanilla seeds until fluffy. Beat in the Marshmallow Fluff. Scrape the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip. Pipe the filling onto the flat sides of half of the cakes and close the whoopie pies, pressing to evenly distribute the filling to the edges.

Use a tablespoon to drop mounds of batter on each baking sheet

Bake for about 16 minutes

Beat filling ingredients in bowl of a standing mixer until fluffy
Using a piping bag and large star tip, pipe filling onto one half of each whoopie pie
Top with other half of whoopie pie and press gently until filling reaches edges

 Pour the peppermint pieces on a plate (or wide bowl) and gently roll the edges so the pieces stick to the filling. If the filling isn’t all the way to edge of the cake, gently sprinkle the peppermint pieces on the filling with the your fingers. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Note: If your party is especially warm, consider freezing the pies so the filling doesn’t melt and run out of the pies. The pies are equally delicious frozen, like a giant peppermint Oreo!

Gently roll in crushed peppermint pieces

Refrigerate or freeze on tray until ready to serve. Transfer to serving platter and enjoy!

Starting Tomorrow: 10 Days of Holiday Appetizers!

‘Tis the season for holiday cocktail parties! Bryan loves Summertime where he can be master of the grill, but I go crazy for entertaining during the holiday months. Since Bryan and I just moved into our first house a few months ago, we knew we wanted to throw a housewarming party during the holidays. Next thing we knew, our “Ho-Ho-Housewarming” party was born! Bryan handled the bar like a pro and my responsibility was (no surprise): THE FOOD.

10 Days of Holiday Appetizers, Starting Tomorrow!

I wanted to make about 10 bite-sized appetizers; a variety of sweet, savory, hot and cold finger foods that could survive the evening and wouldn’t require a ton of maintenance on my part. So last month, I started scouring cookbooks and my favorite foodie sites, compiling a list of contenders. After much deliberation I settled on 10 fantastic appetizer recipes that I want to share with you as my “10 Days of Holiday Appetizers.” So starting tomorrow, get ready for ten days of deliciousness! My list is vegetarian-friendly, beginner-friendly, budget-friendly and will satisfy the sweet and savory lover in all of us. If you’re hosting your own holiday party, consider these apps. Best of all, each of them can be made ahead so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy your own party.

See you tomorrow for Day #1’s recipe: Miniature Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies!

Recipe Coming Tomorrow: Mini Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Fresh & Fast Summer Recipe: Falafel Salad

Falafel Salad: Fresh, Fast & Flavorful
Photo Credit: Clean Eating Magazine

In the Bishop household, summer means dining al fresco, all the time. We’ve outfitted our back patio with some comfy chairs, a small table and, of course, a grill. On any given weekend — morning, noon or night — Bryan and I can be found on said patio, coffee/cocktail/water in hand, enjoying the sunshine and prepping our next meal. While he’s working his grilling magic on our main course, I slip away to the kitchen and throw together a quick and easy side. One of my favorites is this Mediterranean-inspired falafel salad, which only takes 20 minutes start-to-finish and is packed with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, hearty bulgur wheat and Middle-Eastern Za’atar spice. It’s the definition of a fast and easy meal that will get you back to dining al fresco in no time.

FALAFEL SALAD
Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
Serves: 4
Hands-on Time: 20 minutes

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Zest 1 lemon, plus juice half lemon
  • 1 tsp Za’atar (Za’atar is a Middle-Eastern spice mixture that includes thyme, sumac, marjoram and sesame. Find it in the spice aisle or in the ethnic food section of your supermarket.)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small field-grown cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-oz BPA-free can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Make the Falafel Salad: In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Stir in bulgur, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, until tender and water is absorbed. Meanwhile, prepare dressing: In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemon zest and juice, Za’atar and salt. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, kefir and bulgur and toss to combine. Drizzle dressing over top and toss to coat. Top with feta cheese crumbles. Serve immediately or refrigerate until cold.

Big Love For Dim Sum

While Bryan and I were in San Francisco last week, he was busy with lots of groomsman duties. So while he was drinking beer with the boys at Gordon Biersch, I went to Dim Sum with our good friends, Sean and Kim. Sean and Kim are from the Bay Area but live in L.A., so whenever they are in the Bay Area they immediately go to a Dim Sum restaurant called Yank Sing. I had never heard of it, but a) they swore by it, and; b) I love Dim Sum, so; c) I was in!
We walked from the hotel to the Rincon Center (right by the Embarcadero, for those familiar with the city) and arrived to see a SWARM of people. I’m not kidding, the line was probably 10-12 people deep and 4-5 people wide. Not to mention all the people waiting with the check-in pagers outside the restaurant. So we knew we were in for a wait, but we were game. We got a pager, went across the street to Perry’s for a Bloody Mary and hung out. After almost an hour of waiting later, we went back and it was our turn. And thank God, because I was ready to eat my arm at this point.
I’ve got to say that Yank Sing smells incredible. The aroma of dumplings, pot stickers, sweet buns and fried shrimp fills the air. It’s incredible. And it’s a typical dim sum restaurant where waiters don’t take your order from a menu; rather there are a series of carts with steamed, fried and other delicious goodies that arrive at your table. You want one? Take one. You want ten? Take ten. Can’t find what you want? They’re radio it to the back. It’s a serious operation.
All photos courtesy of YankSing.com
The moment that we sat down, the first cart arrived. And not a moment too soon, as I said before. We were so hungry that it didn’t matter what was on the cart; if it was there and it was edible, we grabbed it. That said, we started with an incredible dumpling called Shanghai Dumplings. They’re essentially pork, scallion and ginger dumplings filled with an aromatic broth. They are served in a bamboo steamer (as are most Dim Sum dishes) and you delicately pick them up with chopsticks, place them in a soup spoon, top them with a vinegary sauce and go to town. Sean made the mistake of eating one when it was really fresh and hot…and let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight. I learned from his burnt mouth and watery eyes and let them cool off a bit before eating them. They were so delicate, so flavorful and so beautiful to look at that we ended up having three plates. So what? We were starving!
We also grabbed a plate of Har Gau dumplings (seen below); chopped shrimp and bamboo shoots wrapped up in a beautiful little dumpling “bonnet.” The presentation was simplicity at its best, but the intense care and perfected technique the chefs employ was obvious.
I loved the first two dishes we had, but it was the third cart that nearly brought me to my knees. There was a dish called Char Siu Bau, basically a white bread bun filled with chopped and honey BBQ pork meat. It may be simple, but the bun is like a pillowy cloud of goodness and the BBQ pork tastes like BBQ candy. While it sounds weird, it’s not. It’s magic. I may be biased though, as my love for Char Siu Bau goes all the way back to 3rd grade. You see, in elementary school I had a Chinese friend whose parents would pack her lunch full of warm Char Siu Bau. Meanwhile, I had parents who would pack my lunch full of bologna and cheese sandwiches. Being typical third graders and craving anything BUT what was in our lunch boxes, we often traded food. I truly thought the joke was on her; she was getting processed American cheese and God-knows-what’s-in-that-lunch meat sandwiches. I’m sure she thought the same about me, in an artificially-sweetened-bun-and-pork way. Either way, the Char Siu Bau left a strong impression on me, and I immediately grabbed two plates. 🙂

Dumplings and Char Siu Bau aside, we tried several additional plates. The great news about Dim Sum is that each dish is really small; about four dumplings to a steamer plate or one lettuce cup per person. So while you get a lot of food, you are sampling a wide variety of dishes. Check out some of our other favorites below:


Sean, Kim and I were at Dim Sum for over two hours. Just when we thought we couldn’t fit anymore in our tummies, Sean grabbed a warm egg custard tart dish for dessert, and that was pretty much the end of it. I’m not a huge dessert fan (ironic, I know), but this was amazing. It was warm, straight from the oven, with a flaky crust. Sean and Kim said they preferred them when they were room temp, but I thought they were lovely as is. And with that, we were done. Thank goodness for the ten block walk back to the hotel!

So the next time you find yourself in San Francisco, make your way to Yank Sing. They have two locations; one in the Rincon Center and the other on Stevenson Street. You may wait, but it will be well worth it.

Holiday Brunch at Newport Beach’s Island Hotel

The Island Hotel in Newport Beach, CA is one of my grandma’s favorite locations. She has taken my brother and me there for years, starting when my brother (now 25) was tiny and ordering a burger and fries that arrived in a cardboard convertible car.

The cardboard convertible is gone and the hotel is now under new management, but the food at the Palm Terrace is still one of grandma’s favorite fine-dining establishments. Yesterday, Bryan and I went with my parents and brother to take my grandparents out for an early Christmas brunch. Boy, was it good and the presentation was fun. Best of all, the entire hotel was beautifully decorated for the holidays, completely with a giant tree, garland, poinsettias and even a “Newport Beach” gingerbread town.

Here are a few fun photos of our visit to the hotel and meal. Enjoy!

Gingerbread “Newport Beach”

Bryan in back of the gingerbread town

Bryan and his Belgian Waffle (detail photo below)

My Huevos Rancheros: Two eggs, over-easy, served with black beans, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sliced avocado and two warmed corn tortillas.

Christopher’s Steak ‘n Eggs: two pieces of filet mignon, pounded thin and grilled. Topped with a poached egg, hollandaise sauce and served with shaved potato thins and truffle oil.

Bryan’s Belgian waffle: Light and aity, crispy on the outside and fluffy – almost creamy – on the inside. Topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream & fresh sliced strawberries.