Friday, May 28, 2010

Limoncello Cupcakes

As part of my Birthday cupcake party, I made these Limoncello cupcakes. I love Limoncello, so naturally when I was choosing drinks to model my cupcakes after, I had to find something lemony. As luck would have it, Tartelette had a recipe specifically for Limoncello cupcakes on her blog. I used her cake recipe, which was so delicious. I've never cooked with cream cheese in the cupcake, only the frosting, so that was new. I loved how light these were, so fresh and perfect. 
Tartelette's recipe is written in grams and for 12 cupcakes, but I made a 2 dozen and re-wrote the measurements. I also used regular lemons, where Tartelette used Meyer Lemons.

Limoncello Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Lemon Curd
rewritten from Tartelette

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup Limoncello, at room temperature
3 cups AP Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350*
Add butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a mixer and whip until well mixed.
Add sugar, and beat for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well incorporated.
Add limoncello, baking powder and salt, beat until incorporated.
Alternately, add buttermilk and flour, starting and ending with flour, until just mixed (do not overmix!)
Add lemon juice and zest, mix until just incorporated.
Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners, fill 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, by Martha Stewart

To finish cupcakes, ice with piped buttercream, drizzle with cooled lemon curd, and top with a lemon drop.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tortellini Caprese Skewers

This is such a simple appetizer to make, but is a definite crowd pleaser. It's easy to make ahead of time, and is perfect for summer when you have a surplus of basil and tomatoes! 

Tortellini Caprese Skewers
Makes around 35 skewers

2 lbs. bocconcini or a ball of mozzarella, cubed
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 lbs. tortellini (I had quite a few leftover, but 1 lb. wouldn't have been enough)
1 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Thread bocconcici, tomatoes and tortellini on skewers.
Drizzle with EVOO and vinegar.
Sprinkle with basil.
Keep chilled until serving.
*For most of the skewers, my pattern was: tortellini, tomato, mozzarella, tomato, tortellini. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Pizza

Ever since I failed miserably at my first grilled pizza attempt, I've been terrified to try it again. Obviously, grilling with a charcoal grill for pizza isn't idea as you don't have as much control. Though I do love the taste charcoal brings to grilling, the carcinogens and wait time are big cons to using one.
Since we got our gas grill, I was ready to try grilled pizza again. For this pizza, I went for maximum grill flavor with minumum work. Rather than make a marinara, I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes and torn fresh herbs. The vegetables were seasoned heavily with garlic salt and pepper, and the cheese was sliced for easier application. This pizza was a total success, the crust was crisp and chewy, the vegetables had so much flavor, and mock-sauce added punches of sweet, smoky tomato flavor.

*JJ sliced the vegetables ahead of time, I intended for rounds, but he made them into planks because he said it is easier to grill them that way. You can do whatever you'd like, if you're going for aesthetics, rounds are probably a better choice!
Also, I don't have any pretty plated photos because we simply couldn't wait to dig into this pizza!

Grilled Vegetable Pizza

1 whole wheat pizza crust, rolled out to fit your grill shape
1 15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained well
2 tbsp. fresh torn herbs (I used basil, oregano, rosemary)
1 zucchini, sliced
1 eggplant, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. EVOO
4 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded (I used organic valley and the flavor was outstanding!)

Heat grill over medium-high.
Slice vegetables, add to a large bowl, toss with EVOO, garlic salt and pepper.
Place vegetables on the grill, cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until tender.
Remove from the grill, put on a platter, and turn grill to low heat.
Spray with nonstick grill spray, place pizza crust on the grill.
Cover, cook for 3 minutes.
Flip crust, top with tomatoes, torn herbs, grilled veggies and cheese.
Cover and grill for 4-5 minutes, until grill marks appear and cheese is melted.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grilled Creamy Corn

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I purchased a gas grill about a month ago, and have since been grilling just about every night. Honestly, grilling has become somewhat of a perfect method of preparing dinner for us. Not only does it keep the stove off and kitchen from warming up, but it gives JJ the opportunity to help with making dinner, and he definitely enjoys grilling! 
This recipe is based off one I found in a magazine. I'm not a big creamed corn fan, though I've only ever had the canned variety when I was younger. I decided to give it a try with fresh, grilled corn and it was delicious! I used cream cheese for the creamy part, but I guess heavy cream would be a fine substitute. I enjoyed just a bit of cream cheese to bind this, I wanted to keep it from getting watery. When corn hits your farmer's market, grab a few ears and make this easy side dish soon!

Grilled Creamy Corn
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

8 ears of fresh corn, husked
1 tsbp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. reduced fat cream cheese
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced

Heat grill over medium flame.
Place corn on a platter, drizzle with EVOO, salt and pepper.
Place on the grill, turning every few minutes, about 15 in total.
Remove corn from the grill, cool for a minute, then cut kernels off into a bowl.
Add lime juice, cream cheese and white scallion parts, mix well.
Taste, adjust seasonings, top with green scallion parts.

Note - To cut corn off the cob easily, place a small mug in a large bowl, bottom side up. Balance the corn cob on the mug and let the large bowl collect the kernels.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cabbage and Lime Slaw with Roasted Peanuts

Don't you love it when you find another blogger, chef, or cook who loves a dish as much as you? When I stumbled across smitten kitchen a few years ago, I was so happy to find a few slaw recipes in her index. As she continued to blog throughout the years, it's been more and more slaw recipes. Almost every single one is immediately printed and put in my 'to make' file. Sounds perfect, right? 
My husband is not a fan of slaw. He'll eat it, if it's really  good, but for the most part, he'll pass. This can be a good thing, because I get to eat most of the slaw, but there's only so much raw cabbage the stomach can take, know what I mean? 
So when I found this one, I felt like we might have a winner. JJ loves Tex-Mex cuisine, I'd probably say it's his favorite. Because this slaw had lime and cumin, and my substitution of cilantro for the spinach, it was definitely a Tex-Mex dish. One additional change I made was to reduce the amount of peanut oil, and add a bit of sesame oil to add the nutty flavor without all of the fat. 
To complete this meal, I served the slaw with jalapeño chicken sausage and bell pepper quesadillas, and it was a definite winner! And the best part is the slaw is great the next day, unlike many others, and it wasn't watery or limp.  

Cabbage and Lime Slaw with Roasted Peanuts
via from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from the Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern

6 cups red cabbage, shredded (1 small head)
6 cups green cabbage, shredded (1 small head)
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 c. roasted peanuts, chopped
Black pepper

In a colander, toss the cabbage with 1 tbsp. kosher salt, let the cabbage drain for an hour.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, mustard, cumin, and oil until well mixed. 
Add the cabbage, cilantro and peanuts, toss and season with pepper, add more salt if necessary.
Serve immediately, store leftovers for a day or two in the fridge.
*Note - I added my cilantro after the photo was taken, I forgot to mix it in... but it's a great flavor addition, so don't skip it! If you're not a cilantro fan, just add a bit less

Thank you so much for your comments on my 'housekeeping' post! 
-I have gotten some great suggestions for my picks, and will hopefully get the index completed by next weekend
-I am over the moon about my expected niece or nephew, and am happy to ship my chocoholic sister goodies throughout her pregnancy, so any recommendations for anything that's super-chocolatey and ships well is appreciated! 
-The garden is moving along well, I update that blog every Sunday, if you want to check in. If you can tell, there were originally 40 heads of cabbage in my planter (oops) and my dad thinned it to 15-ish, so there will be plenty of slaws to be made this summer! 

Thursday, May 20, 2010


3 Things to Announce!

1. If you've been to the actual site and not just looking through RSS, I'm currently working on creating a recipe index since the blog is now 2.5 years old with 800+ posts. It's taking a LONG time to do, but it's in the works! I'm also creating an about me page, so if you have any questions, drop me a comment! Also I'm creating a 'my picks' page that will feature some of my favorite ingredients, kitchen gadgets and more. If there's anything in particular you'd like to have recommended, let me know!

2. I recently began a blog to keep track of my garden. If you're a gardener and have any tips or advice, or if you'd like to see what I'm growing and how it will work it's way into my meals, check it out!

3. I recently found out I'm going to be a first time aunt! (Though I do count my dog nieces and nephews...) So anyway, my sister found a cute ticker but had no blog to put it on, so it's now at the bottom of the posts on my blog. And it's food-centric, so it works for me!  I'm so excited to be an aunt :)

Quinoa Cakes with Farmer's Market Riot

Everyone knows there are countless kitchen appliances and gadgets that have just a few uses, and clutter the cabinets. I tend to suffer from this problem, and have converted my guest bedroom closet to my baking/catering supplies closet. While I was in there a few weeks ago, I found two of my favorite kitchen appliances that I tend to forget about: my ice cream maker and my electric skillet. I've used griddles on the stove top before, but they don't heat evenly like the skillet does. And it's so easy to transport to any part of the kitchen. Growing up, I remember my mom used hers for mainly brunches, pancakes, omelette's, bacon, it was perfect!  
When I stumbled across this recipe, it looked like it was going to take quite a few pots and pans. A light bulb went off in my head, why not use the electric skillet to make the whole meal in one-ish pot? Whenever I make pancakes or bean cakes I love using the skillet because it's nonstick, and I've pretty much gotten rid of every nonstick pan I own (the whole Teflon/cancer debate kind of freaks me out, so I'd rather not even have it in my house). Since I only use this skillet every month or so, and with a silicon spatula, I'm fairly confident that I'm not contaminating myself!
So the recipe! I first starred it in my google reader because it featured quinoa cakes, something I've not made before. I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I love quinoa because it's like a protein and starch in one, similar to a bean. I'm constantly looking for new ways to cook up beans. I've made just about every bean-cake you could imagine, so it seemed like quinoa was the next step. 
I also absolutely loved how the dish was served with an abundance of fresh vegetables, some hot, some cold, prepared with different flavors, yet married together by fresh flavors and contrasting textures. This meal is a rainbow of colors, flavors, temperatures and health benefits. 

Quinoa Cakes with Farmer's Market Riot
adapted from Herbivoracious

Quinoa Cakes:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. fresh minced oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
2 egg whites

Place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve, rinse under cold running water for one minute, until water runs clear.
Add stock to a small pot, bring to a boil, add quinoa.
Turn heat to medium, partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
Turn heat off, let quinoa sit for 5 minutes (water should be evaporated)
Add remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl, whisk to combine.
Add cooled quinoa, mix to distribute spices and egg well. 
Heat electric skillet over medium-high heat, or around 375*
Scoop quinoa mixture out with an ice cream scoop into mounds on the skillet (I got 6 cakes)
Press down with a spatula, cover and cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad:
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced
1 beefsteak tomato, seeded and diced
Salt and cracked black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a small dish, refrigerate until using.

Spicy Corn Relish:
1 tsp. EVOO
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 lime, juiced

Heat skillet over high, add oil, garlic, onion and chili flakes and cook for a minute.
Add the corn, salt and coriander, sauté' for 3-4 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle with lime juice and set aside.

Pan-Fried Zucchini

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 lb. small zucchini, cut into rounds
Salt and black pepper

Add oil to skillet over high heat, add zucchini, salt and pepper.
Sauté' for 5 minutes, until browned and softened.

To serve:
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled cheese (I used goat cheese)

Place quinoa cakes on plate, spoon each of 3 salad components on the side, top with cilantro and goat cheese.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hearty Winter Vegetable Pilaf

Do you ever come across a recipe in a magazine, cookbook, or the internet that you feel was written specifically for you? That's exactly how I feel about this one! It looks like something I created on my own because it's chock full of my favorite ingredients, but it's derived from Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine. 
At first, I passed by this recipe because it had a tiny photograph with the short ingredient list and directions. Whenever I finish reading a magazine, I also look at the back index page, where most magazines have the dishes broken down into categories like salads, soups, vegetarian, etc. As I read through the vegetarian section, I saw the title to this one and wondered how I missed it! So I tore the recipe out in January, and put it in my 'to-make' folder. Well, here we are 4 months later, and I finally got around to making it! I really enjoyed this dish, but in the end, I feel like it was missing something. Rachael says crumbled bacon would be a nice addition, but I think it needs either a creamy cheese crumbled on top, or some kind of sauce. I do intend to make this again, perhaps with a pesto or some other flavorful, light sauce. Any suggestions? Or did you make this dish and like it as written?

Hearty Winter Vegetable Pilaf
slightly adapted from Rachael Ray

1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts (I used almonds)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, quartered
1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley (omitted)

Place the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve, rinse under cold water for 1 minute, until water runs clear.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add quinoa, stir and simmer, covered.
Cook for 15 minutes, until water is evaporated and quinoa is tender, remove from heat.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the EVOO and mushrooms, cook for 6-8 minutes, add the scallion whites, pine nuts and cranberries. 
Season with salt and pepper, cook for 2 minutes, transfer to serving bowl.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO back to the skillet, add Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper and sauté' for 10 minutes, until caramelized. 
Add mushroom mixture back in as well as quinoa, toss, then add to serving bowl. 
Top with scallion greens and parsley.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes

The birthday cupcake extravaganza was a great success! I'll have the recipes posted soon, but here are some photos of the cupcakes.
I am really pleased with some of the recipes I created, and some need a little tweaking!

Included were Margarita, Mojito, Irish Car Bomb, Pina Colada, Limoncello, Fuzzy Navel and Mudslide!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Me!

Today is my 25th Birthday!
It has been such a crazy year, moving to Florida, buying a house, adopting two dogs, new job, etc.
In the past year, I've made some great friends, so my husband decided we should have a big backyard bbq party to celebrate. I was game!
He's in charge of the food, so I told him I wanted to do desserts. Yes, the "s" is necessary. I'm all about birthday cakes, but I like variety, and I like grand dessert selections...

8 lbs. of butter + 11 types of booze = Summer Alcoholic Beverage Cupcake Buffet.

So the tentative menu of cupcakes is set, and I'm still figuring out exactly how to execute each cupcake... but here's a rough idea! The results will be blogged in the next few weeks :)

(Rum cake, Lime Curd Filling, Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream)

Mango Margarita
(Lime Cake, Tequila/Mango Filling, Lime Cream Cheese Frosting) 

Bombay Punch
(Champagne Cake, Brandy wash, Raspberry Swiss Meringue)

(Limoncello Cake, Lemon Curd Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting)

(Kahluah cake, Bailey's Buttercream, Espresso Bean topper)

Fuzzy Navel
(Peach Cake, Peach Schnapps wash, Orange Buttercream)

Irish Car Bomb
(Guiness Cake, Whiskey wash, Bailey's Buttercream)

Pina Colada
(Coconut Cake, Pineapple/Rum filling, Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream)

And lastly, thanks to my mama for this shirt in my birthday package. It's scratch and sniff!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Raise-the-Dead Chili, Chipotle-Honey Corn Muffins

For some reason, I've been craving a big bowl of chili even though we're on the cusp of sweltering summer heat here in Florida. When I got my last issue of Everyday magazine, I saw this hearty vegetarian chili, and was sold. Though it says it was an award winning chili, I was less than impressed. I loved the idea of black eyed peas standing in for more traditional kidney beans, but they didn't have much flavor. I also thought the photo was deceiving, the chili was much darker and beanier. I think this is why I love food blogs recipes over magazines, though many bloggers are great at sytling their food, they photograph what they eat, and don't manipulate the end result for a photo. So I made the chili closely to as written, and will link that recipe, but I also am going to list the recipe with changes I believe would make it a better chili! 
I will say the roasted poblanos did add a lot of flavor, and that is what also appealed to me. I should have left them chunkier, I pretty much minced them. Also, the method of roasting the garlic-studded tomatoes was innovative and fun.
To go along with the chili, I thought cornbread muffins would be tasty. I like to experiment with my baking, and create originals to test my skills. These muffins were very flavorful and had a tight crumb. Dipping them in chili was great, but I wouldn't eat them without a dipper as they weren't terribly moist. I attribute that to the fact that there is no oil in them, as I was shooting for a low fat/calorie muffin. I used a cute flower shaped silicon muffin/cupcake tray to get little tulip muffins, but a regular muffin tin would be just fine.   

Raise the Dead Chili by Rachael Ray (original recipe here)
adaptation recipe listed below
Chipotle-Honey Corn Muffins

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
Salt and pepper
10 plum tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and halved lengthwise
1 large onion, sliced crosswise
10 cloves garlic, halved
3 poblano chiles
2 c. vegetable stock
2 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp. corriander
1 tsp. smoked paprika
cilantro and sour cream, for garish

Preheat the oven to 450°. Grease a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
In a small bowl, combine 1tbsp. chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Place the tomatoes, seed side up, and onion on the prepared baking sheet.
“Stud” each tomato with a garlic clove half.
Bake until the onions begin to brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, roast the chiles directly over a stovetop gas flame, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred all over.
Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly and let cool slightly.
Peel, stem and discard all the seeds.
Chop the chiles.
In a large saucepan, combine the roasted tomatoes, 2 roasted onion slices and the roasted garlic.
Add the vegetable broth. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture.
Chop the remaining roasted onion and add to the saucepan.
Stir in the chiles, black-eyed peas, cumin, corriander, paprika and remaining chili powder.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

1/3 c. cornmeal
2/3 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg white
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. chopped chives
2 dried chipotles, rehydrated and minced (or 1 chipotle in adobo, minced)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder.
In a small mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, egg white, honey, chives and chipotles.
Pour wet ingredints into dry, mix until just combined.
Spoon into greased muffin cups (4 regular, 8 mini, or 6 flour shaped)
Bake for 10-16 minutes, until puffed, golden, and set.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, serve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Amaretti Baked Peaches

In my previous post, I proclaimed my love of almonds and almond flavors. This post also embodies all things almond by using amaretto, amaretti cookies, and slivered almonds. It's pretty much the trifecta for almond lovers. And as far as desserts go, I'm not going to say it's healthy... but it's definitely not as indulgent as most desserts!
I saw Ina make grilled peaches with amaretto a few years back. I had planned to make them so many times, but finding ripe, seasonal peaches in Indiana wasn't easy. Now that I'm in Florida, there are farmer's markets with fresh, seasonal Georgia peaches all through late spring/early summer. I'm in heaven!
I was at World Market, browsing through the food section, which I must comment on. Though it's a very small section of the store, they literally have every ethnic food I have ever had a hard time finding, and at a reasonable to cheap price. If you're ever stuck looking for an obscure ingredient, I highly recommend trying World Market. They also make their own name brand Nutella like spreads, gourmet stuffed olives, and many other delicious, cheap gourmet food items. It was here that I found a bag of Amaretti Snaps, which just might be my new favorite bagged cookie.
After finding those cookies, and the fresh peaches at the market, this dessert was begging to be made. We didn't have our grill yet when I made these, so I baked them. I also didn't feel the need to add sugar and other ingredients. I kept these simple, and the three main components were the stars of the dish. Served with a little vanilla ice cream, this was the perfect dessert!

Amaretto Baked Peaches

6 peaches, washed, halved and pitted
2 cups crushed amaretti cookies
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup amaretti liquor
1/2 gallon Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place peaches cut side up in a baking dish.
Add 1/4" of water to the pan.
Sprinkle a mound of crushed cookies in the cup of each peach.
Sprinkle with almonds.
Drizzle with the amaretti.
Cover with foil, place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove foil, bake for another 5 minutes, until peaches are tender.
Remove from the dish, plate and serve with ice cream.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Big, Beautiful Muffins with Apricots and Almonds

When I first saw these muffins appear in my Google Reader, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I absolutely love fresh, plump, dried apricots. I think dried apricots are often overlooked because when they dry out, they're like eating leather... but a fresh bag are so soft and velvety, absolutely delicious.
One of my absolute favorite flavors in baking is almond extract. Often I substitute it for vanilla extract , or combine the two for more depth of flavor. Everything about these muffins screamed "MAKE ME!"
So I let the recipe sit there, waiting for a special brunch. When apricots went on super sale the weekend before my family came to town, I grabbed some and immediately knew what they were destined for... these glorious muffins!
The end result is in fact fluffly, light, tender muffins. They're slightly sweet with little bits of almond crunch and soft apricot pieces. I think next time I make these, I'll dust the tops with a raw sugar for a final bit of crunch, but these muffins served warm with a pat of butter or apricot preserves is the perfect breakfast treat.

Big Beautiful Muffins with Apricots and Almonds

seen on Romancing the Stove, adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

3 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plain lowfat yogurt
2 large eggs
8 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cup diced apricots

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Generously coat a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable spray, or use paper cups with a little cooking spray.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
Whisk the yogurt, eggs, and almond extract together in a medium bowl.
Gently fold the yogurt-egg mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Fold in melted butter, and apricots.
Use a large ice-cream scoop or measuring cup to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Sprinkle several sliced almonds over the top of the batter in each muffin cup.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tabbouleh for the Parsley Hater

If you read my blog often, you'll see just about every vegetable and herb in the world appear from time to time. There are a few you'll rarely, if ever see. Celery and Parsley. Hate them. Ok, hate is a strong word. I hate celery. I just don't like parsley. I don't really understand it. To me, it doesn't have much flavor, so why use something with little flavor when you could use basil.... or cilantro... or mint! And yes, this comes from the girl who could tear up giant iceberg lettuce wedges. But I digress.
So parsley. I've been learning to like it more. I suppose it's like any ingredient, when you use it well, it makes a dish. Tabbouleh is a parsley salad, with the other ingredients simply filling in the holes. So I found that making tabbouleh with bunches and bunches of parsley and a tiny bit of bulgur was too much for me. I can take it to 50/50 parsley to 'other stuff,' but I don't know if I'll make it beyond that. I need the other stuff, which isn't necessarily traditional either.
I will say that if you've got mint growing in your garden like weeds, this is the dish for you. I used 2 bunches of parsley and 1 bunch of mint and it was the perfect balance for me. But as all cooking goes, use your judgement and taste! So here's my bastardization of Traditional, Lebanese Tabbouleh!


1 cup bulgur/cracked wheat
1 cup boiling water
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 3 lemons (about 1/2 c., I like it lemony)
1/4 c. EVOO
1 yellow bell pepper, minced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, small dice
4 cups loosely packed parsley (about 2 bunches)
2 cups loosely packed mint
Salt and pepper
Pinch of paprika
*I would also 1/2 c. finely sliced scallions, but my sister couldn't eat raw onion, so I omitted them

Add bulgur and boiling water to a mixing bowl, cover and let bulgur soak for 30 minutes.
Add lemon zest, juice and EVOO, toss to combine.
Place in the refrigerator while preparing other ingredients.
In a food processor, pulse parsley and mint until it is a fine mince (or do this by hand).
Remove the bulgur from refrigerator, add bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, herbs and paprika.
Toss to combine, taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve chilled.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

Whenever my brother-in-law is in town, I immediately put Cinnamon Rolls on the menu as they're his favorite. Since I was serving them with Huevos Rancheros for brunch, I decided to give them a little Mexican flair. I decided that the addition of chocolate would satisfy both my sister's chocoholic appetite, and the Mexican flair I was looking for.
I found a bar of Chipotle Chili Dark Chocolate at World Market, and was intrigued. It was bitter, with a hint of sweet and a touch of heat that settled in the back of the throat. I thought that the strong tasting chocolate, when mixed with cinnamon-sugar, and rolled in a chocolatey dough, would be a bit more subtle. The chocolate did exactly what I had hoped, a bit of flavor and spice, but still sweet and reminscent of a regular Cinnamon Roll.
For the dough, I simply added some cocoa powder to give them a bit more chocolate flavor, then I drizzled the rolls in a vanilla-cream cheese icing. These rolls were bursting with flavor! They were a little on the dense side for a yeast bread, I wish I had time to get them to rise more, but I was in a rush to get them in the oven. These are fantastic served warm, the gooey chocolate is to die for!

Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
roll recipe adapted from Paula Deen

1/4-ounce package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter 
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
4 oz. chopped chipotle chocolate
1 tbsp. cinnamon
4 tbsp. butter, softened

1 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-4 tbsp. milk

In a stand mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside for 5 minutes.
In a small dish, whisk milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg.
Add 2 cups of flour and cocoa powder to the yeast, mix until combined. 
Add remaining flour and milk mixture, turn mixer on low, knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes.
Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled in size, punch down dough.
Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle.
Spread melted butter all over dough.
Mix chocolate, sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough.
Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal.
Cut into 12 to 15 slices.
Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter.
Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar, cream cheese and vanilla.
Place rolls on a serving dish.
Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency.
Drizzle over rolls, serve warm.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reeses Cupcakes

I work in an office with 11 men who don't really care too much about birthdays. They could not be more different from me because I just love birthdays. Yours, mine, anyone's birthday is reason to celebrate! I love when people feel really special on their day, and I try to make it happen. The past year at work, I've been making cupcakes for everyone on their birthday, allowing them to choose what kind they want. For my final co-worker, he simply stated nothing fruity, make whatever I want.
It just so happened that Reeses were buy one get one free at Publix when I was going to make his cupcakes, so I decided to make Reeses cupcakes. I simply used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake) and then made a simple buttercream, subbing half the butter for peanut butter. These cupcakes had such great flavor, and everyone absolutely loved them.
Now that we've celebrated everyone's birthday with cupcakes at work, I might have to move on to having them choose a type of cookie....

Reeses Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S 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

Heat oven to 350°F. 
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 for 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.
Remove, cool for 10 minutes, transfer to cooling racks and cool to room temperature.

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 lbs. powdered sugar, more or less
Milk to thin, if necessary

Cream together butter, peanut butter, vanilla and salt.
Gradually add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well between additions.
If icing gets too thick, add milk to thin.
*This will depend on the temperature, humidity, etc. Just continue to add or don't add as much when icing gets to desired consistency.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Huevos Rancheros with The Works

So I could lie to you and tell you I made these Huevos Rancheros just for Cinco de Mayo...but I didn't. I happened to see this method of cooking the eggs directly on the tortilla on smitten kitchen, and thought it was so fun. I decided that it made the dish a bit more interesting, and worthy of being served at brunch for the family.  
When it comes to breakfast, or brunch, I'm generally not a big fan of making it a to-do. I eat my oatmeal every morning, and go about my day. I don't like heavy things or sweet things in the morning, so when I make a brunch, I tend to make something savory. These eggs were just that, hearty but still light enough that I didn't want to go back to sleep! 
I used my recipe for Will's Guatemalan Black Beans to serve alongside the eggs, and then made a roasted tomatillo salsa and a pico de gallo. To round out the meal, I served fruit salad and, because I aim to please and know that some people do like sweets with brunch, I made Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls, which will be my next post!

Huevos Rancheros with Will's Guatemelan Black Beans, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, and Pico de Gallo

Huevos Rancheros:
1 dozen eggs
12 corn totillas
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
Salt and pepper
Tobasco sauce

Heat a griddle over medium, lay tortillas on the surface, do not overlap, you may have to work in batches.
Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, crack an egg on top, season with salt, pepper and tobasco.
Cover, cook for 4-5 minutes, until set on top.
Flip and cook to desired doneness.
Lay on a baking sheet, cover in foil, and keep warm in the oven at 200 degrees while you make the others.

Will's 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.
Cook for 4 hours or more over low heat, gently stirring occasionally.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa:
2 lbs. tomatillos, husked, washed and quartered
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Salt and pepper
1 cup cilantro
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tbsp. Honey

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Add tomatillos, japaleno, onion and garlic to a foil lined baking sheet.
Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 15 minutes, remove and cool to room temperature.
Add to a food processor with cilantro, lime zest and juice and honey.
Pulse to desired consistency, serve at room temperature or refrigerate until using.

Pico de Gallo:
Pico de Gallo:

2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a bowl, toss, taste and adjust seasonings.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BBQ Lentil-Loaf Muffins

I've had the idea of creating some sort of lentil loaf  in my head for a while. I've seen a few recipes floating around, but decided to just make it how I make my regular meatloaf, subbing lentils for the beef/turkey. Since I was making this for the family dinner, I thought putting them in little muffin cups might make serving them easier, and they're much cuter that way!
These came out exactly as I had envisioned them, maybe a tiny bit crumbly, so next time I make them I'll be sure to add an extra egg white and maybe smush a little more of the lentils rather than leave them mostly whole.

BBQ Lentil-Loaf Muffins

2 cups dry lentils
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt

1 tbsp. EVOO
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup ground oats (I put rolled oats in a food processor and pulse 20 times)
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar

Rinse lentils, place in a pot with 4 cups of water, bay leaf and salt.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until tender.
Drain in a colander and set aside.
Heat a saute' pan over medium heat.
Add EVOO, garlic, onion and carrots, season with salt and pepper.
Cook for 5 minutes, until slightly caramelized and softened, turn heat off and set aside. 
Add lentils to a large mixing bowl, mash with a potato masher until about half the lentils are mashed and half are whole.
In a small dish, beat egg whites until they are foamy.
Add egg whites, cooked vegetables, tomato paste, oats, parsley and paprika to the lentils.
Toss gently to combine everything, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place muffin cups in a tin (12), spoon mixture evenly into the cups, mounding them at the top.
In a small dish, whisk ketchup, balsamic vinegar and light brown sugar.
Spoon mixture over lentil loaf muffins.
Place in the oven, bake for 25 minutes, or until topping is caramelized and lentils are crisp on the edges.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Roasted Vegetables with Orzo

Before my family visited me a week ago, I spent a lot of time working on menus for the week. I figured we would alternate eating dinner out and eating dinner at home each night. It's pretty interesting cooking for my family, my dad eats fish and limits meat to once a week, my mom eats shellfish and beef, my sister and I eat a little poultry, and our husbands eat it all. When you construct a venn diagram of all our protein preferences, the only overlap seems to be.... vegetarian!
Now before you feel bad for my mom having to cook for this dysfunctional eating family, rest assured that our current preferences are somewhat new, and growing up we ate whatever she prepared. Sorry, mom, no sympathy here :)
And while vegetarian seems to be the easy way out, it's actually the way my family now prefers to eat, which makes me really happy. So I spent the better part of April searching for and creating some great vegetarian menus, and when I stumbled across this dish, it sounded perfect. My dad loves pasta, my sister and mom love eggplant, I eat whole bell peppers like apples, and we're all big goat cheese fans!  This was a great dish, very simple, clean and healthy. I made a few changes, including subbing goat cheese for feta, reducing the amount of oil and omitting the scallions, Kristine's (raw-onion-pregnancy-aversion) preference. I also added zucchini, and would maybe even add more vegetables in the future, or make it a more wintry dish by using only root vegetables.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

1 eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
2 small zucchini, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
1/4 cup pignolis, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender.
Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil.
Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie with Walkers Shortbread Crust

About a month ago, a representative from Walker's Shortbread contacted me to see if I would do a product review. Back when I was working at Starbucks, we sold small packages of shortbread cookies that I loved, and I thought they were Walker's, so I asked her and she said they were! I looked at their website, and saw that the shortbread has no added preservatives or artificial ingredients, it's simply flour, sugar and butter, so I told her I'd be happy to review them! 
She told me to go to the website and let her know what I'd like to try, since I've had the Highlanders, I decided to try the Shortbread Fingers and Chocolate Chip Shortbread. I'm usually a fan of chewy, soft cookies, but I also love biscotti and crisp, buttery cookies. These are probably the best boxed cookies I've ever had. The butter flavor was so strong, they were crisp, but melted in your mouth. I definitely would buy these cookies again! As far as price goes, I've seen them as cheap as $2.49 at Target and up to $4.99 at Publix, so you'll have to shop around. I found 2-packs at World Market for $.99 as well. I am going to be on the lookout for the Almond Shortbread, as that just sounds phenomenal. Thanks to Walker's Shortbread for sending me the cookies, they were delicious tasting, made from real food ingredients, and perfect with a cup of coffee for a real treat! 

Ironically, two days before I was contacted about trying the Shortbread, I tore a recipe out of Rachael Ray Everyday magazine for a White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie that called for Walker's Shortbread for the crust! I used a sleeve of the fingers to make this crust, and the crust was probably the best part of the pie! 
I wasn't overly impressed with this pie, I don't think there was enough white chocolate used, and the pie filling didn't have very much flavor. I didn't like the use of gelatin to thicken and firm the pie, or the double layer. I'll probably attempt this again, but use the bottom layer as the only layer, and double that amount to fill the pie (this is what is photographed above).
 It seemed like a waste of perfectly good shortbread! But I do still like the idea of a White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie, so I'm going to have to try it again in the future.

As a side note, this is probably the best white chocolate I've ever tasted (even better than the stuff my sister brought home from Switzerland!) I love the flecks of vanilla bean in the bar. 

If you'd like to try the recipe as is, it can be found here: