Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Harira Soup

When I saw the photo of this soup, I knew it was going to be perfect for this week, as temperatures have topped out at 50 or so! I love to mix in vegetarian meals during the week, and this one, though vegetarian, has lentils and chick peas, making it hearty and healthy!
The author writes that this soup traditionally breaks the fast during Ramadan. It is traditionally served with dates and crusy bread, and though the dates sound strange, they are a delicious combo. I agree 100% with the author, I love to mix sweet and savory, so it was nice to eat some soup, which was smoky and warm, then eat a sweet date to balance the flavors.

Harira Soup
Serves 6

7 oz. dried chick peas
1/2 c. EVOO
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onions, diced
2 bay leaves
2 celery stalks, chopped
(I added 2 carrots, sliced)
4 c. vegetable stock (I used organic chicken)
7 oz. dried brown lentils
Pinch of saffron (omitted)
1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 red chili, finely chopped (subbed 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes)
1 tbsp. cumin
salt and pepper
2 c. water
5 tbsp. flour
Juice of 1 lemon
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
5 oz. vermicelli, broken (I used spaghetti)

Cilantro for garnish
Crusty bread

Soak the lentils and chickpeas overnight.
Heat the oil in a large pot, fry the ginger, garlic, onions, bay, celery, and carrots until onion is soft. Add 2 c. of the stock, bring to a boil. Add lentils, chick peas, saffron, paprika, chili, cumin, salt and pepper. Cover with remaining stock, bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
In a glass bowl, mix the water and flour. Add lemon juice and tomatoes. Place over a pot of steaming water, whisking while the mixture thickens. Add parsley and cilantro. Add tomato mixture to the soup, simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add vermicelle and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Ladle into a bowl, top with cilantro, serve with bread and dates.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Moroccan Glazed Carrots

I love carrots, especially the sweet baby carrots in a sugary glaze... yum! I was drawn to this one because it has some sugar, some vinegar for tang, cilantro for a brightness, and lots of spices!

Moroccan Glazed Carrots

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. paprika
Pinch of chili powder
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp. minced cilantro

Steam carrots for 5 minutes, or until tender.
While carrots steam, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Add in carrots, toss to coat.
Serve warm or chilled

(Adapted from Moroccan Modern)

Smashed Green Olive and Ruby Grapefruit Salad

When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Not only is it a superfood/anti oxidant rich salad, but it's got so many elements that contrast and pair so well, and it's delicious! Also, I finally found pomegranates in season! After removing the seeds (and a tiny bit of juice), I understand why a bottle of pom 100% juice is $5! This was a wonderful salad!

Smashed Green Olive and Ruby Red Grapefruit Salad
Serves 4, I halved it

8 oz. green olives
2 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley
3 1/2 oz. watercress
1/2 c. hazelnuts (subbed with almonds)
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 c. pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp. EVOO
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Fresh black pepper

Smash the olives with a rolling pin or the back of your knife.
Whisk lemon juice, pepper and EVOO together.
Arrange salad in a bowl, top with viniagrette.

Country Challenge - Morocco!

Sometimes when choosing my country challenge winner, I browse thru the cookbooks at the library, which is how I chose this week's country. I found a cookbook called Modern Moroccan, which had the most delicious looking photographs. I have to say, if a cookbook has photos, I'm immediately drawn to it, and this cookbook has gorgeous photos. The cookware is beautiful, the ingredients are so colorful, and the dishes are so elaborate, but simple, with clean, bright flavors and not an abundance of ingredients.

Officially called the Kingdom of Morocco, it is located in Africa's northwest coast. It is the only country in Africa that isn't a member of the African Union, and one of the United States' major non-NATO ally.
Morocco has been inhabited since 8000 BC, originally by the Berbers. Through the Roman Empire and Byzantine Greeks time, the Berbers were able to maintain control over most of modern Morocco. In the medieval times, Islamic expansion made it's way into Morocco.

During the American Revolution, Moroccan rulers were the first to recognize America as a nation, and allowed the ships free and safe passage in their waters. The American-Moroccan Treaty of Friendship stands as the US's oldest non-broken friendship treaty.

In the 1800's, Morocco became an interest to European countries. In 1906, Spain and France policed Morocco jointly. Tension increased over the years, and the Treaty of Fez was signed, which made Morocco a protectorate of France.

Nationalist parties arose, however, and conflicts developed between France and Moroccans as they wanted independence. After France exiled Sultan Mohammed V, Moroccans attacked the French until Mohammed was allowed back into leadership. The revolution was called "Taourat al-malik wa shaab" - the revolution of the King and the People- is celebrated every August 20.
In 2006, Morocco celebrated it's 50th year of independence.

Currently, maps of Morocco differ. The Western Sahara region is currently under dispute.

As for the cuisine, it is very diverse because of many influences, including Berber, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Arab, and Jewish.
Spices are used extensively, and many popular ingredients are mint, olives, oranges, lemons, chicken, and cous cous.
Tagine cooking is very popular, and one of the most common national dishes is Harira.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

JJ's favorite White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. piccolini farfalle
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, grated
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
4 cups shredded Cabot cheddar cheese
½ tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente.
In another pot over low heat, melt butter, grate onion directly in and cook 5 minutes until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to form a roux. Allow the flour to cook for a minute, then add in the milk. Bring to a soft boil, turn to low, whisk in the cheese slowly, a handful at a time. Stir in the mustard, taste and adjust seasonings.
Drain pasta very well, add to cheese sauce.
Mix to distribute. Pour into a baking dish, and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, until crisp on top.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Will's favorite Guatemalan Black Beans

Thank you so much to Allison for letting me in on this recipe. As you can see, it's so simple, but it's so delicious because the flavors of the ingredients shine through. Since there are just a few ingredients, I wanted to use the best - dried organic black beans, organic onion, and organic garlic, all fresh from the farmers market.
Allison told me Will usually eats the beans with eggs and corn tortillas. I added a fresh tomato salsa because my dad told me when he was there, they had this salsa and loved it. The way he described it, I'm pretty sure it was a pico de gallo.
These beans tasted outstanding... and really, what an inexpensive meal!

Will's favorite Guatemalan Black Beans

1 lb. bag organic dried black beans
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
A heavy sprinkle of kosher salt

Soak the beans for the day so they soften up and cook faster.
Drain the water from the beans, and put them in a heavy bottomed pot.
Add fresh water to just cover the beans, as well as the minced onion and garlic (Allison said she puts her garlic in at the end to keep it from getting bitter, but mine got sweet as I kept the heat over low).
Cook for 4 hours or more over low heat, gently stirring occasionally.
Top them with salt and crema fresca (or sour cream).

Allison puts the tortillas on an open flame for a few minutes each side until they're slightly crispy, but I don't have a gas stove so I broiled mine for a few minutes on each side.

Thank you sooooo much Allison :)

It's A Small World!

In August, my dad and about 10 members of his church took a mission trip to Guatemala. Having blogged about countries for many months, he was very excited to bring me home some authentic Guatemalan coffee and an apron, as well as tell me about the cuisine and culture.
Since then, he’s constantly asking me when I’m going to cook Guatemalan food and post a photo of me in my apron.

One week after he returned, JJ and I hosted a BBQ for the new Athletic Trainers at IU. One of them, Will, is Guatemalan! I couldn’t believe it when his wife told me because just a week earlier my dad was there. Allison (Will’s wife) told me that his birthday was coming up, and he wanted his favorite traditional Guatemalan dish, black beans with eggs and tortillas, something his mom always made. I tucked that little piece of information away, knowing I'd beg her for the recipe when I started blogging again!

Now that I’ve restarted my Country Challenge cooking, I just had to talk about Guatemala. Not only to please my dad, but because I have the most authentic dish out of every challenge I’ve done so far!

So thanks to Dad for my authentic Guatemalan Apron:

Here is the group on the mission trip at the civil war memorial (my dad is 3rd from the left standing). My dad said a new flower is placed in the hands every single day to represent how delicate life is after a long, tumultous civil war (see previous post).

And thanks to Will's Mom, Will, and Allison for getting this authentic recipe to me and allowing me to blog about it!

(They were married in July overlooking the beach in California... and have beautiful postcard worthy photos!)

Country Challenge - Guatemala

Because I will be away this weekend, I cooked and researched this week's country early - Guatemala! I chose Guatemala for many reasons (see next post)... so here's a little background on the country that borders Mexico (which I didn't know) and is actually not too far from us here in the states!

Archaeologists have found remains that lead them to believe there was civilization in Guatemala as far as 12,000 BC. Between the years of 250 and 900 AD, the Mayan Civilization was at it's peak in Guatemala, and many cities and states were built. The cities were all abandoned around 900 AD as famine broke out and killed off the population.

After the Spanish arrived in the Americas, there were many expeditions thru Guatemala. The contact with Spaniards by the natives resulted in widespead disease, and again killed off much of the population. Guatemala was then claimed as an Audiencia, and supplied Spain with sugarcane, cocoa, dye, and wood used for building churches.

In 1821, Guatemala claimed Independence from Spain, and incorporated itself into the Mexican empire, however it dissolved. In 1871, the "Liberal Revolution" occured, which modernized Guatemala, and brought new manufacturing and agriculture, including coffee, a major export.

As far as Modern history goes - America supplied Guatemala with arms and machinery during the Cold War. Guatemala was also involved in providing air strips for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Many years followed with leaders stepping up and being overthrown, invasion, and guerrilla groups. In a scorched earth style of warfare, 45,000 Guatemalans fled to Mexico as civil war erupted in 1982. The war carried on for many years, finally ending in 1996. The UN negotiated talks between the guerrillas and the government. Since the war ended, Guatemala has had very successful government elections and has prospered in creating trade agreements.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pink M&M Cookies for my Zetas!

I am extremely lucky to have joined a sorority in college, Zeta Tau Alpha. Not only have I made some friends for life, but I have been able to really get involved in Breast Cancer Philantropic Events, as that is our national philanthropy. Because of the many college bakesales and events, I was a veteran in pink ribbon cooking long before my mom ever got breast cancer.
When I found out her race was in Charlotte, I knew I'd have to go and have some of my sorority sisters join me in cheering her on, as I went to school in Hickory, NC, about an hour away.
However, in order to get them to come, I promised baked goods... So I decided to use the extra M&M's and make some cookies! I used the Levain copycat recipe. These cookies are delicious, they're moist and dense, but at the same time they're cakey and soft. I based my recipe off of a Levain bakery copycat recipe.

Pink M&M Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. pink M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides.
Add in vanilla, turn mixer on medium, add eggs one at a time.
Add in salt, baking poweder and soda.
Slowly add in flour and most of the M&M's.
Place dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls, place on a greased cookie sheet, press extra M&M's into the dough so they are on top and visable.
Bake for 14 minutes, or until golden and puffy.

Pink M&M Cookie Bars for the Avon Race!

It is finally time for my mom and I to head down to Charlotte for her Avon Breast Cancer walk! We had so much success with the bakesale a month ago! I was telling my co-workers about it, and one of them brought in a bag of pink M&M's for me on Friday. I decided to use them to make some cookie bars to give to my mom and other women at the race. Trish has told me a million times that I need to try these bars, and wow, they are good! JJ especially loved them (and Pumpkin watched them cool for 10 minutes...see photo below).

Pink M&M Cookie Bars

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup oil
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugars with the oil.
3. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing well.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients.
5. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
6. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil (if you use foil, spray with non-stick spray).
7. Spread the dough into the pan, then sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top.
8. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until light golden brown.

Italian Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese (The LR Special!)

Today my husband made a request, which is very stange - he never requests meals! He asked me for "The LR Special" which is the one thing our college cafeteria made well, creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese with bacon. I didn't have any bacon in the freezer, so I told him it would have to be plain grilled cheese with white cheddar, but I could make some tomato soup from scratch. I made it up as I went along, clearing out the herbs in the areo garden to really add a nice fresh flavor!

Italian Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

1 tbsp. EVOO
1/2 yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 c. 2% milk
1 c. chicken stock
1 28 oz. can organic crushed tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
1/4 c. fresh minced Italian herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme and basil)
2 slices multi grain bread
2 slices white cheddar cheese
1/2 tbsp. butter

In a soup pot over medium low, sautee onion and garlic in EVOO. Cook for 5 minutes, add in milk, stock, tomatoes, salt, pepper and herbs. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
While soup simmers, butter one side of each slice of bread. Place buttered side down in a nonstick pan over medium. Top with cheese, other slice of bread, and cover. Flip after 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melty and bread is brown.
Serve soup on it's own, or sprinkle with cheese, herbs, sour cream, or a splash of cream.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Bomya or Qorma-e-Shast-e-arus
Okra Stew
Pg. 198

1 lb. okra
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 oz. split peas
1 7 oz. can tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. powdered dill weed

Clean the okra and cut off the stalks.
Heat the oil and fry the onion until brown. Add the okra, fry until they are coated in oil, add the split peas, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Add water to cover the okra, then add the dill. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until the sauce is thick and reduced. Serve.

“Afghan Food and Cookery”, Helen Saberi. Hippocrene Books: New York, 2000.

Country Challenge - Afghanistan


As I was browsing thru the cookbooks at the library, I found one called “Afghan Food and Cookery”. I picked it up right away because right now, I believe many people associate Afghanistan with war and terrorism. However, there is an amazing history and culture in the country, including a delicious and interesting cuisine, and that is what I like to focus on, the people, the tradition, and the food.

Afghanistan is located in such a place that many armies through the centuries have stormed through, leaving their impression on the culture. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and the Mongols, Babur, and the British have all invaded Afghanistan, and sometimes stuck around for a few years!

Afghanistan is also situated on the Silk Routes, which meant traders traveled thru the country, leaving Indian spices, Chinese Teas, and many other ingredients that have influenced the country.

Hospitality is extremely important in Afghan culture, and guests are treated very well. Meals are eaten on the floor on cushions and pillows. Usually there are large platters of rice and many different condiments are laid out, such as chutney, pickled vegetables, and breads. It is traditional to eat with your right hand, and no silverware is used, except for nan (unleavened bread).

Through all of my reading, I found many pieces of literature that discussed grapes, which grow extremely well in Afghanistan; a few other common and popular ingredients are pomegranate, cilantro, chickpeas, onions, eggplant, and yogurt.

All information paraphrased from “Afghan Food and Cookery” by Helen Saberi.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

7 Layer Dip

7 Layer dip is a family favorite for football games, so I made a big bowl for us to snack on during the Ohio State Game. It may not look pretty, but it tastes great! There are a million ways to make 7 layers, but this is my favorite...

7 Layer Dip

1 brick of lowfat cream cheese, softened
2 c. thick salsa
1 28 oz. can vegetarian refried beans
2 c. guacamole
1 sack of shredded iceberg lettuce
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. light sour cream
1/2 c. salsa or pico de gallo
Optional: Chopped jalapenos, olives, or red onion

In a bowl, mix cream cheese and salsa. Spread into the bottom of a clear, deep dish.
Spread beans over cream cheese layer.
Make guacamole, spread over beans.
Top with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and other toppings.
Serve with tortilla chips.

4 haas avocados
2 lime, juiced
2 tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp. ground cumin

Chop the garlic and sprinkle with salt, paste it together. Dice the avocado, add to a bowl, squeeze lime juice over, add garlic paste and cumin, stir and cover with plastic to keep from browning.

Pair of Baked Frittatas

Over the weekend I wanted to serve a nice brunch for the fam before they headed home, so I made a pair of frittatas along with the cinnamon buns and fruit. I chose these 2 combos because they're so tasty and vegetarian, which much of my family tends to eat.
I was going to cook these like I do my normal frittatas (in a skillet and under the broiler) but I only have 1 nonstick skillet, so I had to find another method. I didn't want to make a quiche, but figured baking them in a pie plate would be best. I remembered seeing Trish's crustless quiche, and thought the only difference was some breadcrumbs on the bottom, so I tried it out and it worked very well!

Spinach & Cheddar and Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Frittatas

2 red peppers, roasted and peeled, sliced
1/4 c. crumbled fat free feta
4 eggs
Splash of milk
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of oregano
1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

1 c. sauteed spinach
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs
Splash of milk
Pinch of dried thyme
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray 2 pie plates with nonstick spray.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the bottom.
Whisk eggs with milk and spices.
Gently pour eggs over breadcrumbs, then drop toppings into each mixture.
Wiggle it a bit to make the veggies and cheese sink.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until brown and puffy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Winery Picnic

Over the weekend, we took my parents and sister and brother in law to Oliver Winery, a local winery that offers tastings, tours, and has a beautiful terrace outside for picnics. They encourage you to buy a bottle and sit on the patio with it. They sell picnic food, but I brought some from home.
Winery Picnic:
Trail Mix (Dried cranberries, cherries, raisins, pecans, pepitas, almonds, and chocolate chips)
Hummus Trio and Veggie Dippers
Italian Bread with Crab and Veggie Cheese Spread
Outrageous Brownies

Everything was wonderful - except for the bees!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cinnabon Cinnamon Buns Copycat

My brother in law's favorite breakfast food is a cinnamon bun. Since they made the long drive from Cleveland this weekend, I thought I'd try out some homemade cinnamon buns! I found a Cinnabon copycat recipe that adapted a bit because I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand. The buns were great, But I should have opted for a thicker, more substantial icing.
Also, after I took the photo, I put the buns back in the oven and baked them for 5 more minutes and added more icing.

Cinnamon Buns

1 cup 2% milk, microwaved for 1 minute
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 c. melted butter
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter, softened

1 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour milk, yeast, and 1 tsp. sugar into a mixing bowl. Let it sit 10 minutes until the yeast foams. Turn the mixer on (dough hook) and add in melted butter, flour and sugar. When the mixture all comes together, add eggs one at a time. Let the mixer run for 5 minutes to knead dough. Turn off, cover in plastic wrap, and let dough rise for an hour.
Roll dough out to 20x12. Smear butter on dough, then spinkle on sugar and cinnamon. Roll, slice into 12 buns, and lay in a round baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover in plastic and let rolls rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 400.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, milk and vanilla. Set aside.
Bake buns for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and top with icing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Country Challenge, to continue or not...

So many of my wonderful readers have commented that I stopped doing the Country Challenge where I blog about one country and cook from it each week.
I stopped for a few reasons... One is I had a few not so good meals, I also was running out of cookbooks at the library to check out, another is because while trying to cook as authentically as possible, I had a hard time finding ingredients, and lastly, those ingredients are expensive!
However, I did really enjoy learning about and discovering new countries and their food, and it sounds like people actually enjoy learning too!
I'm going to start it back up!
However, this time around I might just do one or two meals, and not an entire week.
Sound good?
Also, please leave feedback on this post, did you like how I did an intro to the country and tell you a bit about it? With the map and flag, or do you just like recipes?
I still read all about it, I just don't want to bore people :)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Even though I tend to use the same recipes over and over if I like them and they work, I can't help but want to try something new! I decided to go with Hershey's Chocolate Cake and Frosting recipes for the Chocolate cupcakes at the bake sale. They were delicious, but I do think I like my standard chocolate cake from Ina a bit better (though the recipes are so similar).

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hersheys Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.
Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting (I doubled this)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Butter, add in cocoa powder and mix together on low.
Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed.
Stir in vanilla.
About 2 cups frosting.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was going back through my blogger and found a few drafts of posts that I forgot were still in here! I wanted to get this recipe up from cupcakes I made for the bakesale. They were red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I love cream cheese frosting, it's so creamy and delicious, and the red velvet is so moist and, well... velvety!

Red Velvet Cupcakes by Paula Deen
with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 packages of cream cheese, at room temp.

1 stick of butter at room temp.

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

3 lbs. of powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add salt and vanilla. Add powdered sugar 1/2 c. at a time. If icing is too thick, add a splash of milk to thin, if it's too thin, add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chai Latte Brownies, and a kitchen FIASCO!

Lovely photo, right?
After a marathon of baking Friday and Saturday, I was on my last item in the packages, Chai Latte Brownies. I knew my oven had been a little hot all day (I had it set at 200 and things were burning), but after my brownies were in a "350 degree oven" for 10 minutes, the oven started beeping FIRE and smoke came POURING out of the oven. So I removed the scorched tray of brownies and turned off the oven, because I had to go to the store to get new/more ingredients. Well about 15 minutes later, it starts beeping FIRE again, and smoke is pouring out AGAIN!
Finally I figured out, my oven was stuck on at about 500 degrees!!! I called maintenance and they told me to turn off the circut breaker, so I did. Then I turned the circut breaker back on, and the oven automatically came back on to 500 degrees again! Ugh.
So I had only one way to make the brownies, our little toaster/convection oven that JJ uses to make his sandwiches every day!
I had no pans that fit in there besides pie plates, so I made 12 batches of brownies in pie plates in what JJ called, "my easy bake oven." NOT EASY! Well, easy, but time comsuming!
So, all who ordered packages, appreciate the Chai Latte Brownies, ok?! Thanks :)
We should be getting a new oven Monday... so I'm without an oven for 3 days... ugh.

Now on to the brownies... YUM! I love chai, chocolate, brownies, everything about these scream YUM! I did find the recipe was a little dry, so I adjusted it a bit and I think it came out much better.

Chai Latte Brownies
by Cooking Light

1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk (I used 1/3 c.)
3 cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole allspice, crushed
3 whole cloves
(I used 3 Tazo Chai Tea Bags)
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 1/4)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used 1/3)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve into a large microwave-safe bowl; discard solids. Add chocolate chips and butter to milk mixture; microwave at HIGH 20 seconds or until chips and butter melt, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly; add eggs, stirring with a whisk.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined. Spread evenly into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 20 pieces.
*I used 2 pie plates to make these and cut them into 8 wedges each*

Pumpkin Spice Fudge

Again I took my basic fudge and changed it up by making it Pumpkin Spice. The best part, to me, is topping it with pepitas - toasted shelled pumpkin seeds!

Pumpkin Spice Fudge with Pepitas

4 c. sugar
1 5oz. can evaporated milk
2/3 c. canned pumpkin puree
1 c. butter
12 oz. white chocolate chips
7 oz. marshmallow creme
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. toasted pepitas

Line a 13x9x2 pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick spray.
In a heavy saucepot, melt butter, add in sugar, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil over medium high, then turn to medium and let mixture cook for 10 minutes. Continue to stir it as it bubbles.
Turn heat off, add in chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, spices, and vanilla. Stir vigorously until combined, pour into the casserole dish. While it's still warm, press in pepitas.
Set aside and cool for 2 hours before cutting.

White Chocolate Craisin Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookes are one of my favorites. To make this more fall-ish, I added some dried cranberries. They're soft, chewy, and delicious!

White Chocolate Craisin Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilal extract
3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened dried cranberries

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
Add flour, baking soda, poweder, and salt to butter mixture gradually, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in oats, white chocolate and cranberries.
Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes 5 dozen.

Caramel Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies

I have seen this cookies made a million times, but never came across a recipe. I was reading a magazine and saw a giant ad with the cookie and this recipe! I had heard about Pumpkin Spice Kisses, and thought they would be great in these rather than plain kisses. I had no luck findind them, but I did find caramel kisses, and they are delicious! These cookies are so cute, easy and a real crowd pleaser!

Caramel Kiss Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 bag Caramel Kisses
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.
2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

Once upon a time my husband came up with a fantastic idea - Pumpkin Buttercream! He didn't really know how to create it, but that's where I came in. I just added a bit of this and a bit of that, and it's now passed cream cheese icing as my favorite. Although... Pumpkin Creamcheese icing sounds amazing... hmm...
I am not a huge icing fan because it's just so sweet, but i could eat this stuff by the spoon fulls! I decided to use a basic sugar cookie as to not overpower the icing, and they made cute little sandwiches. The icing keeps the cookies moist, and they're just so festive.

Pumpkin Buttercream Sandwich Cookies

1 batch of sugar cookie dough, cut in pumpkins, baked and cooled
Pumpkin Buttercream:
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp.
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lbs. confectioner's sugar (more or less)

In a stand mixer, cream butter and pumpkin. Turn to low, add in cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla. Slowly add sugar 1/2 c. at a time until the buttercream is creamy and no longer seperating (the pumpkin will make it look grainy if there isn't enough sugar mixed in).
Store in a tupperware container at room temp for a week, or in the fridge for a month, or freezer forever!

Maple Pecan Fudge

I love to take basic fudge recipes and play around with them to create flavors. This is similar to maple candy, but much creamier. They are so cute too, topped with a pecan on each square!

Maple Pecan Fudge

3 c. sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 5 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 c. butter
12 oz. white chocolate chips
7 oz. marshmallow cream
100 pecan halves

Line a 13x9x2 pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick spray.
In a heavy saucepot, melt butter, add in sugars and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil over medium high, then turn to medium and let mixture cook for 10 minutes. Continue to stir it as it bubbles.
Turn heat off, add in syrup, chocolate chips, and marshmallow creme. Stir vigorously until combined, pour into the casserole dish. While it's still warm, press in pecan halves.
Set aside and cool for 2 hours before cutting.

Ginger Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookies. I love ginger and tons of spice, and a soft, chewy cookie is the best. These are very easy to make from on hand ingredients, and they're perfect for ice cream sandwiches with pumpkin or vanilla ice cream!

Ginger Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 tablespoons molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.
3. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread

I had this recipe torn out of Cooking Light for a few months. I love shortbread and brown sugar, so I decided to add this simple, basic, and delicious cookie to my fall treat packages!

Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans, toasted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Place butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1 minute). Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed. (Mixture will appear crumbly.) Sprinkle ice water over flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Shape the dough into 2 (6-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour or until very firm.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough; cut each log into 16 slices using a serrated knife. Place dough circles 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle tops evenly with turbinado sugar, gently pressing into dough. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets; cool on a wire rack

Friday, October 3, 2008

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake - Two Ways!

(Pear and Golden Raisin Bundt)

(Apple Mini Loaf)

My parents have a giant pear tree in their front yard. A few weeks ago, my dad sent me home with a few dozen pears. They were a little under ripe, so I decided to bake with them. I looked in Baking: From My Home To Yours, and found one recipe that called for pears that was perfect - Brown Sugar Bundt Cake! Since my husband and I both love brown sugar, we knew it would be perfect. It is very easy to make, and looks beautiful.
I was reading Dorie's playing around section, and she mentioned to try it with apples, and substitute prunes or craisins for the raisins. I went apple picking, and knew I wanted to include an apple cake in my fall treat packages, so I went with mini loaves using apple (but no dried fruits). They taste great and look adorable!

Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter at room temp.
2 c. packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temp.
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk at room temp.
2 pears or apples in a small dice (I use 3)
1/2 c. dried raisins/cranberries/prunes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a bundt cake pan.
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time. Scrape down, add in vanilla.
Add in baking powder, soda, and salt. Mix in for 10 seconds.
Add in flour and buttermilk, alternating starting and ending with flour. Mix until just combined.
Fold in apple or pear pieces with a spatula.
Pour into bundt cake pan. Bake for 60 minutes (25 for mini loaf cakes).
Cool for 60 minutes.

*In the apple cake, I added 1 tsp. ground cinnamon*

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

All American Apple Pie

Over the weekend, my husband and I went apple picking at a local orchard. We had a great time, and got some wonderful apples! I looked up many recipes and finally decided to make one of my own! It came out WONDERFULLY!!! It was sweet and tart, the crust was buttery and flaky, I'm not a big apple pie fan, but we plowed through this one!

All American Apple Pie

3 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks frozen butter, grated on a cheese grater
1/4 c. shortening
a little less than 2/3 c. ice water

10 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch allspice
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. flour

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a big bowl. Grate in butter, drop in pieces of super cold shortening. Using a fork, mix in the water in a slow stream. When it's just coming together and there is still a lot of flour in the bottom, use your hands to form it into a big ball. It should still be dry-ish though, you don't want it sticky.

Put in the fridge for an hour or two.

Mix all filling ingredients in a big bowl.

Roll crust into the bottom. Top with filling, roll out top, pinch together.

Cut 3 slits in the top.

Wash with milk or cream on the top.

Bake at 350 for 70 mins or until golden brown and bubbly.