Look how blue these blueberry cupcakes are! And there is no food coloring. This is all natural. I love being able to achieve different color desserts through their natural dyes.

Last week I made sour cream blueberry ice cream, and the blueberry puree used was a purplish blue that created a vibrate purple ice cream. I immediately wanted to use the puree in cupcakes. Blueberry puree is really simple to make. I dreaded and put it off for a long time, but once I made it, I realized how quick it is, and now I want to make it all the time.

I've seen a few blueberry cupcake recipes out there, but I decided to experiment and create my own. I think it still needs a bit of tweaking, but I was happy with my first attempt. These cupcakes actually came out an even darker shade of blue than I anticipated. Perhaps I'll use less puree next time for a lighter blue.

The other problem is that while the cupcakes were super blue the night I made them, the next day the inside turned sort of brown inside (though they remained very blue on the outside).

I thought of making a blueberry mascarpone frosting, but I didn't want to hide these little blue babies, so I decided to leave them plain.

Blueberry Cupcakes

Ingredients

Blueberry Puree

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen, if frozen, thaw and drain)
1/3 cup sugar

Cake batter

2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon
salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2
eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon
vanilla extract

Directions

1. In
a medium saucepan cook blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar
over medium heat, stirring, until mixture boils and the berries pop and
soften, about 4 minutes.

2. Pour the berry mixture into a blender
and whirl until a seemingly homogeneous puree is achieved, about 1
minute.  Pour mixture through a
fine sieve and let cool.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 cupcake pans.

4. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.

5. In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one
at a time until combined. Add sour cream, oil and vanilla until
combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Mix in puree.

6. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 way. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool
completely before frosting.

A while back I learned that when you steam Pillsbury biscuit dough, it tastes remarkably similar to chinese steamed buns. It's a great shortcut for when you don't want to make the buns from scratch. I blogged about them here.

While grocery shopping this weekend, I noticed that there is now a honey butter Pillsbury biscuit dough.  Chinese steamed buns traditionally have a subtle sweet flavor, which was missing when I steamed the buttermilk Pillsbury biscuit dough. I thought that the honey flavor would make the biscuits taste even more like chinese steamed buns.

Previously, I made my buns into turtle shapes. This time, I decided to try bite sized happy faces. I had bought a bento seaweed puncher set and previously made happy faced rice balls.  I decided to use the same punchers to create happy bun faces.

The Pillsbury dough is divided into 8 pre-cut biscuit shapes. I took each one and broke it into four pieces and rolled them up into balls. I made sure to mush the dough around a lot because the biscuits are designed to be flaky once they are cooked and I wanted to get rid of the flaky layers.

These steamed buns came out great. While the previous ones I made had a hint of "biscuit" taste, these don't have any biscuit taste. The sweet honey adds a great flavor to steamed buns. My family was a bit suspicious when they first saw them, but once they tried one, they liked them a lot. I think this biscuit dough would also be ideal for making donuts too.

To make the faces, I purchased the seaweed puncher which I got from ebay. (You can do a search for bento, face, nori puncher) You can buy sheets of seaweed (the same type used to make sushi) at most Asian supermarkets. The seaweed puncher is very easy to use. While the steamed buns are still hot, you simply place the side you want to be the face into the cut-outs and they should stick on.

I love how these taste. And I love how they look. Every time I see these happy faces smiling at me, I can't help but feel a bit giddy.

Steamed Bun Happy Faces

Ingredients: One can of Honey Butter Pillsbury biscuit dough

Directions: Break each pre-cut dough into four pieces. Roll dough around thoroughly to get rid of any "layers" and then roll into a ball.

Place balls about one inch apart in a steamer and steam for about ten minutes.

While the buns are steaming, use seaweed puncher to punch out face cut-outs from seaweed sheets.

Remove buns and let cool for a few minutes. While the buns are still warm, place the "face" side into the face cut-outs. I usually arrange the face cut-outs on the plate so that they already resemble a face, and then I just press the face on.

Serve immediately after cooled.

Wa Dining Okan
3860 Convoy St #110

San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 279-0941

okanus.com/

I've been wanting to visit Wa Okan Dining for lunch ever since they began offering it but I wasn't able to because it was only offered on weekdays. I'm not sure when, but at some point, they began to offer it on Saturdays as well. I learned of this through Cathy of mmm-yoso.

When I realized they now serve the lunch menu on Saturday, I was extremely excited and went to visit as soon as I could.

The lunch menu offered is very limited. There are only a few items to choose from and there are no choice in the tapas. But the prices are pretty good too, with a lunch set being around $10.  I've liked almost everything I've eaten at Okan so I was pretty sure I'd like the lunch even though I wouldn't have many choices. Plus, I liked how much cheaper it was.

We arrived at the end of lunch and got a seat at the bar. The menu works like this: there is a "basic" for $6.50.  This consists of three small tapas, rice, soup and homemade pickles. Then you separately order the main entree, which there were four choices that day.

I ordered the set lunch with the marinated short ribs. BF ordered the set lunch with the spicy tuna bowl. 

We were served a strong cold brewed tea.

Here is the set of tapas, rice and soup:

The tapas: a marinated eggplant that had a hint of wasabi; shirataki noodles with roe eggs; stewed daikon and carrots.

I loved all of them, though my favorite was the shirataki noodles with roe eggs. Every time I eat here, I am always amazed at how tasty everything is. The tapas are so simple, and have the feel of a homestyle dish rather than restaurant style, and yet they are so delicious. I am as pleased eating these simple dishes as I am eating at a fancy restaurant.

The tapas I've had are always well made and I love the creativity too. I've had shirataki noodles many times and served many different ways, but I've never had them topped with roe eggs. I really loved this combination. The saltiness of the roe eggs was a perfect match for the plain shirataki noodles. This is my favorite way I've seen shirataki noodles served.

I glanced over at BF's set, and his tapas were completely gone before I was even halfway done with mine. Normally, getting him to eat these type of dishes or anything with vegetables is like a chore. But he loves the tapas here as much as I do.

I was even a fan of the miso soup. Normally, I'm not a big fan of miso soup. I'll drink it if it's put in front of me, but it's not something I particularly enjoy.  This miso soup was full of goodies: carrots, onions, fried tofu, and bits of konjac. I loved all the ingredients in the miso. This was the first miso soup I've enjoyed in a long while.

My brown rice was mixed with seaweed. I loved the look. The rice ended up going perfectly with my marinated short ribs.

My ribs were nicely marinated and well flavored. I liked that the pieces I was served were pretty lean cuts of the meat. Sometimes when I order this dish at restaurants, it seems half the meat is just chunks of fat.

BF ordered the spicy tuna bowl which wasn't on the menu. I only had a bite, but I liked what I ate.

All in all, it was a good lunch experience.  Dennis of A Radiused Corner has done several lunch posts of Okan which can be found here, here and here.

You can read my previous dinner visits to Okan here and here.

On my way out, I made note to pass by the new restaurant that has taken over the old Shanghai City, which Kirk of mmm-yoso had reported about. The new sign is already up and it's called Spicy House.

They were vans and things looked busy busy inside as they set up the place. I don't know too much about the restaurant yet, but while I was passing by, who should pop his head out of the restaurant, the owner of DeDe's! I don't know for sure that Spicy House is owned by the owner of DeDe's, perhaps he was just paying it a visit.

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