Tuesday, May 31, 2011
And, while I'm on a tropical theme (see the last post on Key Lime Bars)...
Last week, I needed to throw together a baked good (and something that I actually had ingredients in my pantry for) for my Bible study girls quickly! I came across the concept of a pineapple muffin with coconut crumble and I'm so glad I gave these a try! These sweet little muffins are buttery but still light and the pineapple makes them moist. The coconut crumble topping adds a perfect, caramel-y, crunch to the soft muffin underneath. The mini size was perfect for toddlers and mommies alike and there were plenty to go around. If you don't have access to a mini muffin pan, don't despair, you can bake them regular size too, just increase the baking time to 18-20 minutes!
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons reserved flour mixture
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray mini muffin tin with cooking spray (or fill cups with paper liners). Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Remove 2 tablespoons of mixture and reserve for crumble. Set aside remaining flour mixture for later.
To prepare crumble, stir together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour mixture and butter with a fork until butter is worked in and mixture is crumbly. Stir in coconut and set the mixture aside.
For muffin batter, in a medium mixing bowl, cream together 6 tablespoons softened butter and sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add in egg, milk, pineapple with juice and vanilla. Blend together just until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula and fold in the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. The batter will still be lumpy. Spoon or scoop by tablespoons into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle teaspoons of crumble topping on each muffin and press down gently. Place muffin pan in the oven.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Use a butter knife around the edge of each muffin to remove if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Adapted from: "Cupcakes! From the Cake Doctor" by Anne Byrn
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Last night I had a run in with a trampoline and the trampoline won. Today has been spent "icing and elevating" my very swollen ankle (I think I'd much rather be icing cupcakes). I'm very thankful to my husband and in-laws who are taking care of things with my two small rug rats. I'm also thankful that I have several recipes already in the wings to share because I'm not sure when I'll be getting downstairs to the kitchen again...
As we are approaching Memorial Day Weekend (thank you so much to the brave men and women who have served us!), my mind thinks on BBQ. Obviously, BBQ-ing can mean very different things to different people depending on where in the country you hail from, but one thing is certain. The accompaniments to a cook out are equally important. These key lime bars are tart and refreshing, a perfect ending to a backyard bonanza.
Note: the recipe calls for key lime juice. Key limes are very small, yellow-green limes that make the pie famous. If you can't find key limes, by all means, substitute the more common, larger and greener Persian Lime (the one that we all know and love). You can also swap in lemon juice to make lemon bars if those are more your thing...
Key Lime Bars
1 stick (4 oz, 8 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
powdered sugar for garnishing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, with electric mixer, blend together butter and powdered sugar. Once thoroughly mixed, add flour and salt, mixing until a stiff dough is formed. Press into prepared pan and bake, until crust is lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare filling. Beat together eggs and sugar until smooth and lemon-colored. Mix in flour and beat until smooth. Whisk in lime juice and zest. Pour into baked crust and return to oven, baking for an additional 25 minutes or until filling is set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Dust with powdered sugar for garnish and top with tiny lime slices, if desired.
Recipe closely adapted from Pat and Gina Neely's Key Lime Bars
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
If you have never tried quinoa, it's time to stand up and take notice. Pronounced "Keen-wah," it is a South American grain that is actually a complete protein, making it a versatile, economical and gluten-free(!) option for a main dish or hearty side. It can usually be found in the bulk or health food section of the grocery store. Done as a Greek style salad, this is a refreshing, Summer-y way to enjoy it. Oh, and make sure to rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer before cooking (it has a natural pesticide on it that can make it taste bitter if not washed off).
Greek Style Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water)
Salad Fixings (the "optional" marking indicates I didn't have them on hand for this particular rendition although would've added them if I did--but it turned out great without them!):
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced tomato (or halved grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion (optional)
1/4 cup diced kalamata olives (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or fresh mint (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan or rice cooker, combine quinoa and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender (and has become translucent with a little white curlicue tail on each grain). Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, chop the salad additions and prepare the vinaigrette. To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, herbs and sugar. Whisk in olive oil until mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour vinaigrette over quinoa. Stir in all the salad fixings except for the feta cheese. Once salad is combined, gently fold in most of the feta cheese. Reserve a small amount for sprinkling on top as a garnish. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Even though it has seemingly been all the rage and "all the cool people are doing it," I don't think I could ever go low carb. I just like bread too much. And pasta, I love pasta. Still, there are some times when maybe it's nice to go a little lighter (perhaps in exchange for a really decadent dessert). In those cases, this might be in order. Zucchini squash is shaved into thin ribbons to resemble strands. It comes together in just a few minutes and the "pasta" is light but sturdy and incredibly satisfying. I topped mine with Chicken Sausage and Pea Pasta Sauce from the Peasant Pasta recipe. I did not even miss regular pasta--those low carb-er's might be on to something, at least once in awhile! File this recipe away, especially for this summer when gardeners are begging you to take their zucchini off their hands.
1 pound small sized zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper taste
Freshly shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese
favorite tomato sauce
Wash and dry zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin slices off of one side of the zucchini until you hit the seeds. Rotate and peel again until hitting seeds. Continue to rotate until all the sides have been peeled down to the seeds. Discard the core. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add zucchini and a sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes until zucchini is softened and begins to turn translucent. Do not overcook. Transfer to a serving dish, season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and sauce, if desired.
Recipe source: NY Times Zucchini 'Pasta'
Monday, May 16, 2011
Hello, Coffee? Meet Ice Cream. That, my friends, is "Affogato" (which means "drowned" in Italian). To be precise, I suppose it really means espresso (which is technically hot water forced through tightly packed coffee grounds at high pressure to produce an intense, bittersweet and creamy-tasting little sip of coffee) poured over gelato (dense Italian-style "ice cream"). But, we have the crummiest espresso maker known to man (and that was even before the tamper disappeared--probably dumped in the trash by a helpful toddler). Thankfully, I can make strong coffee and I am sure more of you have a coffee maker than an espresso maker anyway!
This is a lovely, impromptu dessert that despite its simplicity is elegant and delicious. I always loved coffee ice cream and this combines the bitter and acidity of the strong coffee with the creaminess of ice cream. Also, you can play with the ice cream flavors. Vanilla is certainly a classic but the pictures feature Sweet Chai Latte flavored ice cream (a new flavor by Haagen Daz which I am having a hard not plowing through because it is so awesome). Chocolate also would be yummy for those of you who are Mocha fans.
Ice Cream Affogato:
1 pint high quality ice cream, any desired flavor that would go well with coffee
4 small cups very strong brewed coffee or espresso (2-4 ounces a piece)
Just before serving, scoop ice cream into individual bowls or large coffee mugs. Serve coffee or espresso alongside each bowl for each person to pour over their ice cream. Enjoy immediately.
*Also, adding a small amount of liqueur (such as amaretto or Frangelico etc.) to each adult serving would fancy things up a bit, if you'd like. Just add to the ice cream alongside the coffee.
Inspired by recipe from Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Having a husband from Iowa, there are some pretty strong feeling about sweet corn in this household. According to my husband, just about the only corn worth eating is found in August and is purchased off the back of a pick up truck from a kid in overalls. That said, I thought I'd take my chances with a new crop of corn that was on sale last week (6 for $1 at Sunflower Market for anyone who's interested). I think even mediocre corn would be proud to wear the herb butter, but we were actually pleasantly surprised. The easy steaming method saves time (no big pot of water to have to wait on) or there's also a variation for the grill below. The only disappointing thing was only picking up four ears!
Steamed Corn with Fresh Herb Butter
4 ears of sweet corn
water for steaming (Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian also suggests you can substitute milk for the water to produce extra sweet and tender corn, especially if the corn is less than ideal--I'll have to try that method sometime)
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 garlic clove, minced or grated as finely as possible
1/4 cup fresh mixed herbs, finely chopped (I used basil, parsley and cilantro but chives or rosemary or tarragon or chervil would all be good too)
salt and pepper
In a small bowl, add garlic to butter, along with fresh herbs and stir until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Set aside or chill in fridge until ready to use. Remove husks and silk from corn and set aside. Add 1-2 inches of water to a tall pot. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Place ears of corn in pot, standing up and leaning against the sides. Cover the pot and steam the corn very briefly, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pot, spread with the herb butter and serve immediately.
Variation: The herb butter is also really delicious on grilled corn. To grill, peel back husks (but keep attached to the base of the ear). Spread each ear of corn with 1/2-1 tablespoon softened herb butter and replace husks. Grill over medium-high heat, turning the ears of corn occasionally until corn reaches desired doneness (I just like to take the "raw" taste off), about 10 minutes.
Note: sweet corn is best when cooked and eaten as quickly as possible after buying (really after picking, but we don't always have control over that). The sugar in corn starts converting to starch immediately after picking and affects the flavor in a bad way. Hence, why sweet corn bought off a truck in the middle of August (having been picked that morning) tastes like pure summer heaven...
cooking method inspired by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Everyone needs a few recipes on hand that you can throw together in the blink of an eye. This is one of those recipes that comes together in 15 minutes (yippie!). When I was throwing out dinner options tonight (and I was secretly hoping for the boys to pick soup because it's been cold and rainy all day), my four year old jumped on the fish tacos option. I guess what I'm saying is that if fish tacos was a kid's first choice, they really are a crowd-pleaser. We all (should) know that adding more fish to our diet is a good thing for our health and this is an easy and appealing way to add a serving. This recipe uses tilapia, which I've heard called "the gateway fish." It's mild flavored, economical and doesn't have a fishy taste. Other good options besides tilapia would be cod, red snapper or catfish. Oh, and "Blackened" just refers to the cooking style--rubbed with Cajun style seasonings and cooked in a really hot skillet to form a crispy crust!
Blackened Fish Tacos
1-1 1/4 pounds tilapia fillets (about 4)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
(*also, you can substitute Cajun or Blackening Seasoning for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
corn tortillas (about 8-12--double layer them for best plate to mouth handling)
bagged coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup sweet onion (such as a Vidalia), finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
(diced avocado would be nice too, I just didn't have any)
Directions: In a small bowl, stir together cilantro and diced onion. Set aside. In another small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream and lime juice. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Stir together salt and spices and season tilapia fillets generously with spice mixture. When the skillet is good and hot, place the fish fillets in a single layer in the skillet. Cook, untouched, for about 4 minutes or until edges of fish are opaque. Also, there should be a crispy looking crust formed on the bottom side. Flip over and cook additional 2-4 minutes or until the second side is browned, and fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from heat. Break into large chunks. Squeeze a lime wedge or two over top of the fish
To serve, double layer the corn tortillas. Spread a thin layer of the sour cream mixture on tortillas. Top with chunks of fish, a handful of coleslaw mix and sprinkle with cilantro-onion mixture. Serve with additional lime wedges, as desired. ¡Olé!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Ginger Soy Dressing/Marinade:
makes about 1/2 cup (double the recipe if using as marinade)
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about 1/2" piece)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice (or syrup/juice from mandarin oranges can or can sub 1-2 teaspoons honey)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or another neutral flavored oil--canola or peanut)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 batch Ginger Soy Dressing recipe (1/2 cup) or favorite bottled Asian-style salad dressing
Crispy Wonton Strips:
8 wonton wrappers/skins (usually found in refrigerated produce section) cut into about 1/2" strips
4 cups shredded lettuce (I used Romaine but iceberg would be appropriate too)
4 cups shredded napa cabbage (has a curlier leaf than traditional green cabbage and found in Asian cuisine)
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup carrot, cut into thin matchsticks or roughly shredded
1 small can mandarin orange segments (I like the kind in juice rather than syrup), drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (also known as scallions)
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Prepare dressing/marinade recipe by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk once more before using/serving. Marinate chicken breasts in dressing for at least 30 minutes. Remove from marinade and discard remaining marinade. Spray chicken with cooking spray and grill over medium- high heat, about 6 minutes per side, or chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees and juices are clear. Remove from grill, tent with foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Slice into thin strips to serve over salad.
Preprare wonton strips. Pour enough vegetable oil into the bottom of a heavy skillet to cover about 1/2" deep. Heat oil over medium high heat. Once hot (you can test by adding one wonton strip. If it sizzles, it's hot enough. Fry wonton strips in oil until golden, turning halfway through. The whole process should take about 1 minute. Remove crispy wonton strips and let drain on a layer of paper towels.
To serve: In one large bowl (or individual bowls), layer lettuce, cabbage, bell pepper, carrot, orange segments and green onion. Top with sliced grilled chicken and drizzle with dressing. Garnish with wonton strips, almonds, if using and additional green onion, if desired.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Sheesh, I've been lazy when it comes to posting lately. My apologies if anyone noticed. I was finishing up a lovely time in Minnesota with my family (except for the fact that it actually had the gall to snow on the first two days of May...falling into such stereotypes, Minnesota, I'm so disappointed in you...). We are back to normal life but I have one more recipe that I made while back there (and utilizing my mom's vast selection of dishes and coordinating linens, which I will miss...). It involves one of my favorite Springtime ingredients, rhubarb.
Speaking of, I have a tragic story involving rhubarb coffee cake. I've mentioned before how I was involved in 4-H (see my post on Samoas bars--and yes, I realize samoas come from girl scouts, that just was where I remembered I had put in a teaser about this event...). Anyway, 4-H makes a big deal about entering items you worked on for exhibition at fairs. Well, I didn't raise animals and didn't build bird houses, or sew, or make handicrafts or partake in photography. What I did like to do was bake and so the summer I was eight, I planned to enter a Rhubarb Cake in the Hennepin County Fair with the goal of winning a blue ribbon.
One steamy June day, the time for judging arrived. I had painstakingly prepared my cake with rhubarb harvested from my father's garden, hand crumbled the cinnamon streusel and baked the cake to perfection. It was time to go and we were running late, as usual. My mom loaded myself, my brother, my sister and two neighbor kids she watched into our '87 Grand Caravan (almond colored with the awesome faux wood paneling on the side, of course). In the chaos that is loading five children into a vehicle, the cake, unfortunately, remained on the roof of the minivan. We took off down the alley and I don't remember if I suddenly realized my lap was devoid of a potentially prize winning cake or if we heard the sound of it smashing on the cement behind us, but needless to say, there was no blue ribbon in the cards that year.
The recipe for that fateful cake has disappeared, but my love for rhubarb never will. Here is a winner of a recipe (ha ha)! Big cinnamon-y crumbs over top of vanilla cake dotted with sweet-tart pieces of rhubarb. I made it with whole wheat flour to reduce the guilt factor. For best results, avoid alleys and old school minivans and possibly enjoy with some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
Rhubarb Crumble Coffee Cake
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces), melted
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute all purpose flour just fine, I was just trying to be healthy)
1/3 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (again, you can substitute)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix together sugar, corn starch and ground ginger from the rhubarb filling ingredients list. Toss in rhubarb, stir to coat rhubarb in the sugar mixture and set aside.
To make cinnamon crumble, mix together in another bowl the brown and white sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Stir in melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined and sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will feel like a stiff dough. Set aside in one big mass.
In one final bowl (are you running out of dishes yet? I'm sorry, it will be worth it), stir together sour cream, eggs, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth. Combine together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add into wet ingredients, gently stirring just until combined. Fold in rhubarb sugar mixture. Pour into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Using your fingers, break cinnamon crumble mixture into large crumbs and sprinkle evenly across top of cake batter. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean of wet batter (it might be a bit moist if you stick a piece of rhubarb). Serve warm or at room temperature. Ice cream or whipped cream garnish, optional.
Recipe Adapted from Big Crumb Coffee Cake by Smitten Kitchen
Monday, May 2, 2011
This was a recipe I wasn't completely sold on. Sure, I was intrigued by the idea, something like a peanut butter cookie but made with almond butter (not to be confused with a "butter cookie" with almonds...although now that I mention it, that sounds interesting too, I now have visions of little Dutch windmill cookies dancing through my head).
The vegan batter tasted pretty good (no raw eggs to contend with so the dough was fair game!) and I don't think I could make a much healthier cookie if I tried. But when they came out of the oven, I was disappointed. They just weren't as good as I was hoping and I figured that it would just go in the "misses" pile.
That was last night.
This morning, I thought I should give them one last try. Wow. The cookies were soft, nutty and just slightly maple-y sweet. I had to make myself stop after one knowing I'd already eaten breakfast (although these are so healthy, they could actually pass as a "breakfast cookie"). I'm starting to think of new variations I could play around with--adding some chopped dates or orange zest, dried cranberries or some cinnamon, substituting honey (not vegan) or agave for the maple syrup...there's a lot of potential in these power-packed bites!
Maple Almond Butter Cookies
makes 18-20 cookies
1/2 cup creamy natural style almond butter (could also try it with peanut butter)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used the oil on the top of the jar of the almond butter that I couldn't stir back in and that worked well!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or just just double the amount of one or the other)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (you could try white flour, it would just be less nutritious or regular whole wheat flour for an even more rustic cookie)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds (I used some "Almond Accents" brand sliced toasted almonds)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together almond butter, syrup, oil and extracts. In a separate bowl (or let's be honest, I hate to make extra dirty dishes so I just threw the dry ingredients on top of the wet and mixed them together carefully before stirring the whole mess together--there's a reason why I can be a bit hit and miss in my baking), stir together dry ingredients and then stir into almond butter mixture, stirring just until combined. Roll heaping teaspoons into balls, place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake 8-10 minutes or until firm on the edges, but still soft. Remove from oven and cool completely. Taste even better the next day!
Recipe source: Sweet+Natural
Sunday, May 1, 2011
I love the combination of carrot and ginger but had somehow forgotten about it until Easter when my friend, Raelene (a really amazing cook!), brought a delicious carrot and ginger soup to our Easter lunch celebration. Since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and decided to come up with my own version the other day. The sweetness of the carrots and the bite of the ginger combined in a smooth, creamy soup is really fantastic. We topped ours with some plain Greek yogurt (and the leftovers with honey yogurt which was great too!) and garnished with some sweet little chives that are starting to poke up in my Dad's garden. Ahh, Spring. Now, if the weather would just start acting like it (we had flurries on May day here in Minnesota today!)...
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
8 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
large pinch of nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
plain Greek yogurt and fresh snipped chives for garnish and serving, optional
In a large sauce pan, saute onion in olive oil over medium high heat until softened. Add carrots and ginger root and saute for about two minutes more. Pour in chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until carrots are very tender (about 15-20 minutes). Using an immersion blender (or if you don't have one, puree in batches in either a blender or food processor--but be very careful to avoid burns!), puree the soup until smooth. Stir in half and half and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle into bowls or mugs and top with a dollop of yogurt and top with chives (optional). This soup is good served hot or cold.