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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Comfort means comfort food too!

It is FINALLY cooling down a little, well a lot!  Today was our first non 90 degree day so with comfort in the air, being able to open the doors and windows and let fresh air come in I decided comfort food was on the menu.  OK well not food exactly.  *laughs*  
It did bring me back to a conversation I had last night with my baby sister.  When I say baby I mean she IS the baby of the family.  I happened to have a pink lemonade cupcake left over and gave it to her.  She mentioned she's cheating on me by having cupcakes made by someone else. *snickers*  She had a cinnamon french toast and bacon cupcake with a maple butter cream frosting.  I don't know if she told me that the cupcake was dry so as not to hurt my feelings or not.  But as I sit here thinking I can do something better.  Then I thought ... what brings hubby comfort.  Seeing as he's the only one working right now, I try to cater to him a little bit more.  So I KNOW I wanted to do something with a "maple frosting" but wasn't sure what to go with it.  So I started looking and found the ABSOLUTE perfect comfort for hubby.  

Carrot Cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting!

Hubby LOVES carrot cake!  It's one of those cakes that he will always ask for .... always try to pick up at the store.  It's his comfort cake.  Well at least it always seems to be. *smiles*   So that's the cake to make with the maple frosting.  But not just maple frosting ... but maple cream cheese frosting.  With tweaks of course.  It wouldn't be something I made if it wasn't tweaked.   
Carrot Cupcake Recipe
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg (I only use fresh grated nutmeg.)
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar (I used light this time.)
1 1/4 Cup Canola Oil
4 Large Room Temperature Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Cups Grated Carrots (About 4 - 5 medium)
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts (Optional)
1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds (Optional - I used dry roasted for a bite of salt with the sweet of the cake.)
1/2 Cup Raisins (Optional)
Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin with liners.  Makes 24 regular or 12 - 14 large.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice in a medium bowl.
Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended.
Whisk eggs in 1 at a time until each one is blended.
Ad flour mixture into wet mixture and stir/whisk until blended.
Fold in carrots, nuts, and raisins.
Fill cup 2/3 the way and bake.  For regular 14 - 18 minutes for jumbo/large 20 -28 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cool about 5 minutes before removing and placing on baking rack.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz Room Temperature Cream Cheese
1 8oz Room Temperature Mascarpone
1 Stick Unsalted, Room Temperature Butter
2 Cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup
Cream cream cheese, mascarpone, and butter until smooth.
Add maple syrup and beat until smooth and blended.
Add sifted powdered sugar and beat until well blended.  If texture is not to your liking you can add additional powdered sugar until your satisfied.
Refrigerate for 15 - 20 minutes until frosting sets up.  If frosting is refrigerated for longer than 20 minutes let frosting loosen up a little until it will be easy to frost with.
I shared these with my family.  I won't expect a good comment from my Dad as I forgot he doesn't like raisins. *giggles*  Mom and younger brother LOVED them.  "Definite keeper!"  Older brother's comment "Primo! And I don't like carrot cake!"  Younger sister ... the one you had the really dry cupcake .... this is good .... REALLY good!  Hubby .... YUM!  And hmmmm ... and oh yeah!  Don't think there are any better words to hear.
Play with the ingredients as much as you want.  If you don't like a lot of cinnamon you can cut it down.  You can use all cream cheese instead of mixing but I always have mascarpone in my fridge and it adds a different taste.  Don't use maple FLAVORED syrup.  It is NOT the same thing. Use all walnuts, don't use raisins.  But whatever you do, try these.  They are yummy, moist, and not overly sweet.  But remember whatever changes you make ... the best ingredient is you .... Enjoy!!!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yummy Treat ... it's been a good day!

Sorry it's been a while ... Been busy with organizing things I've done and things I want to get done.  Let's start with dessert because it was so darn good.  It's FINALLY cooling off again so it was the perfect day to bake something for dessert for family dinner.  Lately we've been eating at home, which we TOTALLY enjoy.  But today Mom was making stuffed cabbage and THAT can't be passed up.  So dinner was at the family home.  I made creamy polenta, at Mom's request, but then thought dessert would be good.  So what better to make now that it's cooling off is a summer favorite.  
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes with a Cherry Lemonade Frosting
These were SO yummy!  I don't know how many of you have Dads that don't really comment on good something is but when my Dad says it's "Really Good", you know it's a keeper. *winks*
Pink Lemonade Cupcakes Recipe
(Adapted from Half Baked recipe)
2 Sticks unsalted, room temperature butter
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
4 Large, room temperature eggs
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Pink Lemonade Mix (I used Country Time)
1 Cup Milk
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degress.  Line 24 cup muffin tin.  (This recipe made 12 jumbo and 12 mini for me.)
Sift together all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and lemonade mix.
Cream together butter and sugar.
Add eggs 1 at a time.
Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and milk, alternating starting and ending with dry ingredients.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 the way full and bake for 15 - 17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool about 5 minutes and place on cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cherry Pink Lemonade Frosting
1 Stick Unsalted, room temperature butter
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 Cup Pink Lemonade Mix that has been pulverized (Can use food processor, I use my Magic Bullet.)
12 Maraschino Cherries, pureed
1/2 Maraschino Cherry Juice
Cream butter.
Sift together powered sugar and pulverized pink lemonade mix.  Slowly add dry mixture to butter.
Add lemon zest.
Add cherry puree and cherry juice, whip for about 2 minutes.
Refrigerate for about 15 - 20 minutes before frosting.  If you will be making this ahead of time, make sure to bring frosting to room temperature before frosting.

Try these!  These are TOTALLY delish!  Cherry can definitely be omitted but be prepared as the cupcakes will be tart like drinking a glass of pink lemonade.

So as everyone knows Sunday morning breakfast is an important weekly tradition for hubby and me.  So this week it was simple yet so good.  So good we took left overs to Mom and Dad's.  Remember me asking about Dad telling you how good something is ... that happened to me TWICE today.  And I might add it was more special the first.  Dad is a TOTAL connoisseur of biscuits and gravy and will NOT have any shame in tell you if it STINKS or when in a restaurant sending it back.  I will be the first to admit that I don't like making biscuits.  It probably has something to do with all the good recipes have you rolling them out and I am more of a free spirit and do not like the precision of roll to 1/2 inch thick and cut them in 2 inch diameter.  So not my thing, so can grands biscuits works for us.  We happened across the honey butter ones and have fallen in love with them. *laughs*  So breakfast was biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and fruit salad of peaches, plums, and blackberries topped with fresh ground cinnamon and sugar.  Coffee and orange juice to wash it all down and it was a wonderful was to start the day.  Good breakfast, good company, and an unexpected compliment!  So remember you are the best ingredient ... Enjoy!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Craving Weekend

This past weekend was really about what I've been craving.  I usually try and cook according to what I think hubby will like or want but this weekend I planned according to what I have been wanting.  But for now let's start with Sunday breakfast.  I am over 40 and have NEVER had stuffed french toast.  Weird right?  Not so much.  When you come from a family of 5 kids, a set of parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and friends staying over there is always LOTS of food to be made.  So when cooking for so many sometimes you were lucky to get one piece of french toast. *laughs*  Hubby did the cooking but we did the prep together.  When asked what he wanted he didn't know because his thought was "we've had everything".  I think that's how they think.  So he wanted to make cherry pancakes.  We just has decadent waffles last weekend, I'm thinking no.  So I said you haven't made french toast in a while.  That was another thing hubby came into the relationship with.  Being able to cook french toast well, regular french toast.  I changed THAT quick.  I'm all about the flavor.  And flavor we do.  So since he wanted cherries, what to make.  Part my idea, part his, part internet research to figure out how to do it.  French toast stuffed with a Nutella cherry strawberry ricotta mascarpone filling.  We had some of the butter rum syrup left so we decided that would do.  I KNOW it sounds like a lot of flavors but they all work SO well together.

Nutella cherry strawberry stuffed french toast recipe
Loaf of french bread cut into 6 - 7 2 inch pieces
5 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup Milk
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract 
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1/4 Cup Ricotta
1/4 Mascarpone, room temperature
1/2 Cup Cherries, quartered and pitted
1/2 Cup Strawberries, sliced
1 Tablespoon sugar
Combined the ricotta, mascarpone, cherries, strawberries, and sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a flat bowl, big enough to drench your french toast, whisk together eggs, milk. extract, and cinnamon.
Slice bread in 2 inch wide pieces.  CAREFULLY make slits little less end to end about 3/4 the way down.  Do not go through the bread.
Take as much or as little of the nutella and spread on each side of the bread.  
Take about 2 tablespoons of the filled and stuff in pocket.
Heat skillet with a little butter, dip/drench stuffed bread in egg mixture.
Cook on all three sides, bottom counts as a side, until golden brown about 2 - 3 minutes.  Serve with extra of the fresh fruit or top with syrup of your choice.  
We used the left over butter rum syrup (July 22nd, 2012 Busy Day Brunch to Dinner).

Definitely something to try again.  Thinking maybe just bananas and nuts next time.  Chocolate dipped fruit, what can be better.  You can use regular cream cheese, I just find that mascarpone is less tangy than regular cream cheese.  Use whatever fruit you like.  Skip the nutella.  The possibilities are endless.  Try it this weekend.  Let me know what and how you did.  Us trying to out do that is going to be hard.  Remember the best ingredient is you ... Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cravings ... and change!

Lately I have been craving rice pudding.  The problem:  I want something that tastes like what great grandma made.  I was blessed to have had my great grandmother in my life until I was 25.  She's the one that gave me my love of baking.  Every holiday I would be in the kitchen baking with her.  She would show me how to make whatever sweet we were making.  I treasure those memories, but the problem with memories is that they are not always reliable.  What is also unreliable is great grandma's recipes.  *laughs*  How many of you went looking for that remembered, treasured recipe that you want to make????  Well I did and I happen to have all of her "sweets" recipes as she called them.  And how many of you have pulled out one of those recipes and realized that something's missing?  OK on her recipes she left out MAJOR parts.  I understand the why, because I do the same thing sometimes.  But NOW what can I do.  As I said, the memory is not always reliable.  Unfortunately the recipe I'm looking at only contains ingredients.  And I mean ONLY ingredients.  Instructions I could probably figure out BUT not amounts of each ingredient.  I love you grandma BUT  now off to find a recipe and hope that I can get it or that it is close to great grandma's because THAT is what I'm craving.

Then there is a another small problem.  I want something different.  How is that possible? It just is.  When you taste something, at the base I want it to be grandma's but want it different enough to make it mine.  What is different enough to make it mine?  Cinnamon!!!  I LOVE cinnamon.  I will put it in everything I can put it in.  The result of the old, which is VERY close to great grandmas recipe, and the different which makes it mine is this:  
Cinnamon Chocolate Rice Pudding Recipe
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis: 
Chocolate Rice Pudding
5 Cups Whole Milk
2/3 Cup Arborio Rice
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoons Orange Zest 
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Cinnamon Chocolate Chips

In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, rice, sugar, orange zest, and vanilla extract. 
Bring the milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. 
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens, about 35 to 40 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat and stir the cocoa powder and the cinnamon chocolate chips and stir until melted. 
Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the rice pudding into serving bowls. Cover and refrigerate for 2 1/2 to 3 hours and up to 1 day ahead.

I love the taste of almonds and chocolate, so I think the next time I make this I'm going to try using 2 1/2 cups of whole milk and 2 1/2 cups of dark chocolate almond milk.  Will add some richness to the chocolate flavor.  
You can also just take it off the burner, omit the chocolate and you have regular rice pudding.  Take the recipe and make it your own!  Remember the BEST ingredient is YOU! Enjoy!!!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Busy Day Brunch to Dinner

I schemed and planned on Friday and Saturday to figure out what to make hubby for breakfast today.  Yes I know that lately it's been a together event but I wanted to treat him to something nice.  So what better way then to combined his favorite and my favorite.  Yes I know that I said I wanted to treat him and he does enjoy what I like so the way I look at it it's still his treat. *winks*  The result was dark chocolate "sneaky" waffles with white chocolate chips, strawberries, and a butter rum syrup.
Throw in some orange juice and coffee and you have a feast fit for a king and a queen. I know you caught the "sneaky" part in the waffle description.  Wondering what it is? Hmm .... 
Chocolate "Sneaky" Waffles
(Adapted from

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
1/2 Cup Cake Flour (or increase All Purpose Flour to 1 Cup)
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Dark Cocoa Powder, sifted
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil, melted (Butter will work)
2 Large Eggs
1 3/4 Cup milk (I used dark chocolate Almond Milk)
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1 Cup Zucchini, pureed in food processor (Pureed pumpkin would work here.)
1 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Shift dry ingredients (first seven ingredients) in large bowl. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar and melted coconut oil. 
Whisk in beaten egg, milk, and pureed zucchini. 
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (do not over mix). 
Stir in chocolate chips. 
Pour about 1/4 cup mix per waffle and cook according to waffle iron instructions.
Can place done waffles in an oven at 200 degrees to keep warm or I just put mine in a bowl covered by a towel.  When you add new hot waffles keeps them all warm.

Butter Rum Sauce/Syrup Recipe

1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Flour
1/ Teaspoon Salt
1/ Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Teaspoons Rum Flavoring (You can substitute real rum for an adult breakfast, that conversion would be 4 teaspoons.  I would add 1 at a time to your taste.)

In a heavy sauce pan combined brown sugar, flour, and salt.  Whisk ingredients together until flour disappears.
Add water and cook on low heat until smooth and thick.  (I like to check to make sure the flour flavor has cooked out)
Stir in butter and flavoring.  Once butter has melted, use immediately or set aside until cool and store in refrigerator.

Normally we have Sunday dinners at my family home.  But lately between us being busy and them being busy we've taken to eating more at home.  We all have busy lives so when we don't go there Mom gets a much deserved break.  And sometimes my younger brother's home to cook the dinner, so she gets a break. *Laughs*  Someone's got to do it, I'm no there anymore.   So when we decided to eat at home, that is a trial because now what do I make.  I already had an idea from a recipe I found online, and thankfully I went shopping yesterday so I was able to pick up the "main" ingredient.  Again scheming because hubby had no clue I was planning to make it, nor what "it" was.  Always like to get fruits and veggies in where I can.  Tonight we made it together.  I like when hubby helps, especially when he offers.  It's like you always want to show off what you do best.  So when hubby's there, I show off.   Tonight we made chicken strips, a cherry couscous, and toss salad.  The only dish hubby had no hand in was the cherry couscous, though he did find it delicious.  
Chicken strips were made with panko and bread crumbs.  The trick to making tasty anything that you bread at home is to remember to season all of the layers.  Season the flour, season the eggs, season the "breading".  One of the flavors I wanted carried through the meal was the pineapple sage I was using.  I minced about a tablespoon of it up and tossed it in the flour.  Then we used Weber beer can chicken seasoning in the eggs and "breading", about 1 1/2 teaspoons in each.
Then dunk in flour, egg mixture, and shake in "breading". (That was hubby's job.)

Regular toss salad with whatever you like.  Then there is the Cherry Couscous.  Very refreshing and definitely not a heavy side.
Cherry Couscous
(Adapted from )

1 cup Israeli Couscous
1 1/4 Cup Boiling Water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup Coarsely Chopped Pitted Cherries
1/2 Cup Sliced Green Onion, whites and greens
1 15oz Can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
5 Spinach Leaves, cut in ribbons
5 Pineapple Sage Leaves, cut in ribbons
1/3 Cup Dry-Roasted Almonds, sliced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Grated Orange Rind
2 Tablespoons Fresh Orange Juice

In a saucepan boil water and salt.
Add Israeli Couscous, reduce heat to simmer, and cover cooking from 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a bowl place, cherries, onions, beans, and almonds. 
In a small bowl whisk together oil, orange rind and juice.
Put couscous in with cherry mixture, toss with oil mixture.  Let stand about 15 minutes for the couscous to soak up some of the oil mixture and serve.
You can use any citrus you like in place of orange.  You can use pecan pieces instead of almond slices.  This recipe is very, very versatile.  So change it how you like!  Remember the best ingredient is you.... Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What's for lunch and well dessert?!

Dishes loaded in the dishwasher, everything put away and wiped down, coffee set for tomorrow morning ... now it's time to tell you about my day, or better yet what I made.  Have I mentioned I LOVE Italian food.  Being part Italian, growing up around my Godfather and his family (who are Italian) it is a large part of how I cook.  I try to make it not so Italian but there are days it just can't be helped.  Today was that day. I just wanted something yummy.  But what to put with bacon.  Yes I said bacon.  Everything is better with bacon.  I made Chicken ricotta ravioli but not any sauce would do.  I had 1/4 of a pound of thick cut bacon.  Cut it in lardons, which is just to say match stick sized pieces *giggles*, and crisped it up.  Once crisped, I added some bite sized pieces of zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms.  Then added some sliced shallots.  Threw in some spinach, once it was wilted down and the ravioli were cooked and drained, tossed the mixture in with the ravioli, hit it with a bit of fresh crated parmesan and VIOLA lunch.  It was so yummy.  Something I would definitely do again.  Then hubby left for work.  I have been dying to bake something, but the heat and humidity have been so bad lately.  Finally a little rain, OK a lot of rain, and a little bit of cool down and my mind is DEMANDING I bake something.   But what to bake.  I want something a little different paired with something I know I'll like.  There is nothing I like more than a good cup of cinnamon coffee in the morning.  Hmmm ... can I make a cupcake with those flavors.  I sure can!!!

The result is a cinnamon coffee cupcake recipe with the coffee chocolate almond frosting from Brave the heat for this one!  
With a few minor tweaks of course. 

Cinnamon Coffee Cupcake
1 3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Strong Brewed Coffee
2 Teaspoons Instant Coffee

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin.  Batter makes 18 regular cupcakes.
Shift flour, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl and set aside.
In large bowl beat sugar and butter until light and smooth.
Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Alternate adding flour mixture and brewed coffee, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Beat in instant coffee.
Fill cupcakes 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting the only change I made was 1/2 less teaspoon of the instant coffee and vanilla extract instead of almond.  When you take a bite of it it's like eating a Cinnamon mocha coffee.  Definitely going to try this by making just a cinnamon cupcake with maybe an apple or peach frosting.  Oh boy!  Can't wait for fall!!!!  Remember the best ingredient is you .... Enjoy!!!! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Veggies Galore!

Today was definitely something worth registering in the record books.  My husband, who it is almost a requirement to have meat at every meal, ate a meatless meal.  Not one shred of meat was to be had in lunch today.  And he ENJOYED it!  It's up there in temperatures again but you still have to eat.  I know they say Monday is the day for meatless meals but since I don't adhere to those kinds of things I figured why not today.  I knew exactly what I wanted to make because I hadn't made a stir fry in a while, well not since our daughter went back to Tennessee.  So it's been a while.  I have all these veggies, both frozen and fresh, so stir fry it is.  BUT, you knew that was coming right, what sauce to use.  I didn't want the standard teriyaki sauce.  So off I went searching, while hubby sat beside me without a clue.  I found one I thought I'd like to try, but of course some of the ingredients I didn't have.  This of course resulted in what hubby likes to call Melody Tweaks.  
I will call it my Veggie Stir Fry Sauce Recipe, all because well there isn't anything close to meat in it.

1/2 Cup Soy Sauce (I used low sodium or lite)
1/2 Cup of Vegetable Stock
1/3 Cup of Coconut Milk
Juice of 1/2 a Lime
1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil
3 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon White Pepper (definitely can use black pepper)
2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Minced Ginger
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 Cup Cold Water
In a bowl combined soy sauce, stock, coconut milk, lime juice, sesame oil, brown sugar, and pepper.
In a separate bowl combined cornstarch and water.
In a medium saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil, once you see the oil start to ripple add the garlic and ginger.  Heat until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cook 1 minute.
Add cornstarch solution to saucepan and stir until the sauce boils and starts to thicken.  You can immediately add to your stir fry or set aside. 

If after you have added it to your stir fry and you find it too thick, you can think it out with a little vegetable stock.  But remember to add a little at a time and let it absorb before adding more.

What to put in a vegetable stir fry ... any veggie you want.  I am a fan of using both sweet and savory vegetable.  Frozen or fresh, even cans once they are drained and rinsed.  I love to add some pasta, usually a veggie pasta but if I don't have any on hand I will use whole grain linguine.  If you will be adding pasta, make sure to cook it first while your fresh veggies are sauteing.  As for the veggies, cook the fresh first, then add the frozen, then the canned.  In this instance I used a mix of frozen stir fry veggies, along with fresh zucchini, yellow squash, fresh carrots, baby spinach, and onions  Add some canned, drained and rinsed baby corn, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots.  At the end toss in 1/3 cup of honey roasted, chopped peanuts for a little added sweetness and crunch and you will have something TOTALLY meatless, yummy, and definitely filling.  

I like to add to the oil before the I add the veggies a clove of garlic and some minced ginger.  It scents and flavors the oil before starting to cook the veggies and brings the main flavors through the meal.  Once you have browned the garlic clove, remove it and toss.  If you want instead of peanuts, I used them because I used peanut oil, you can use sunflower seeds or even toasted sesame seeds.  

I'm hoping it cools down again soon so I can get back to some baking.  Hubby LOVED the chocolate cupcakes with the coffee chocolate almond frosting so now what to do to top that.  In the meantime, remember the best ingredient is you ... Enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dinner for two, Dinner by two

Well dinner was wonderful.  It was a two kind of day.  Hubby and I working together to make dinner, just like we did breakfast.  Only difference was ... he was outside, I was in.  I have been trying to find a way to incorporate the fresh herbs from my garden into my cooking.  I use tons of dried but only a few fresh did I stick to.  Basil, as part Italian I cook a lot of Italian so this is a given.  But the garden has thyme, sage, mint, and pineapple sage.  I bought this one because it smelled like pineapple and wanted to try it.  I never know what to cook it with.  So they all found a place in my kitchen today.

So for the chicken I made a herbed butter that I slid under the skin of the chicken to not only amp up the flavor of the meat but to keep the breast meat moist while it cooks.  

So the herbed butter recipe was:

4 Tablespoons Butter, softened
A Tablespoon of minced herbs of pineapple sage, apple mint, thyme, and parsley.  
Stir herbs into softened butter, wrap it up in plastic wrap, and return to fridge until ready to use.

I wanted to create a glaze and have been feeling the need to use fruit and herbs.  So I start looking around and thought, I really don't need a recipe just and idea and I'm sure I can figure it out.

The result is a fruit and herb glaze that was tart and earthy.  Just the compliment to the herbed butter.

To make the fruit herb glaze recipe
1 Cup on a combination of raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry.  (I used frozen fruit here and just let it defrost and create a juice. If you use fresh, you will need to macerate the fruit.)
1/2 of a medium plum, chopped
1 Tablespoon of minced herbs of pineapple sage, thyme, apple mint, and basil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Put frozen berries in a bowl to defrost, add 1/4 cup of water, and toss in the plums.
Once berries have defrosted, mash them up a little.
Add fruit and herbs to small saucepan and cook on medium for about 5 minutes.  This will soften the fruit further. 
Let the mixture cool a little then puree.
Strain through a cheesecloth to eliminate any seeds or skins.  Put back into the saucepan and add 2 Tablespoons brown sugar.  And heat until sugar is dissolved.
(Note:  If the mixture is not thick you can add cornstarch/water mixture until it is your desired thickness.)
Set aside to baste your chicken.

For the chicken I placed 2 tablespoons of the herbed butter under the skin and seasoned the chicken skin with paprika, fresh ground black pepper, and celery seeds.  Then out it went with hubby to the grill.  Once the chicken internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, the glaze is applied and chicken is cooked till it's internal temperature reaches 165.  Then let it rest.

If I can add veggies to anything I will.  So I made a side salad, that's pretty simple but wanted something else too.  Made rice pilaf from scratch.  It's actually pretty simple and you probably have it in your home without even knowing it.  

To make rice pilaf recipe:

8 Button mushrooms sliced
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
1 small yellow squash
1 small or 1/2 of a medium carrot, small diced
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Orzo Pasta (If you don't have orzo past you can use spaghetti broken into small pieces.)
1 Cup Long or Medium Grain Rice
2 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock or Water

In a medium saucepan, melt butter.
Add onion, mushrooms, yellow squash, carrots and salt.  Sautee until onions are translucent.  
Add orzo or pasta to saucepan and sautee until pasta is brown or toasted.
Add rice and chicken stock or water. 
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cover.
Continue to cook until rice is done.  This depends on the rice that you use.

Add a glass of sparkling wine and dinner is served.  Don't be afraid to experiment with your herbs.  Hubby always asks, "how do you know it's going to taste good?"  My answer is always well I don't but at least I know what won't work and won't do it again. *laughs*  The key is to always remember you can always add more, it's harder to take things away.  So add a little at a time, and remember to taste.  You don't have to eat a whole meal to taste it.  Always taste it before you add more salt.  A lot of foods already contain salt, so taste often.
Remember the best ingredient is you ... So Enjoy!

Just a fruity breakfast

Morning everyone!  Well to some afternoon.  Late start to the day but breakfast was planned out.  Yes I know it was supposed to be chorizo and eggs with cornbread coffee cake but you will have to wait for a cooler day for that.  I don't mind baking when it's in the 70's but in the upper 80's low 90's .. with high humidities, sorry just can't bring myself to do that.  So we decided on something a little cooler to make but no less scrumptious.  And this one we did together.  Hubby likes when we do things together but I get so frazzled when I'm not constantly busy but it teaches him how to make things and he likes to spend time in the kitchen with me.  So we made, together *smiles*, ricotta peach pancakes from scratch with ham and caramelized peaches.  Then because I can't NOT stay busy I made a small fruit salad with plum, peaches, and grapes with a squeeze of lime.  Add some vanilla ice coffee and it's definitely a cool scrumptious breakfast ... well in our case brunch. 

Looks so good and tastes even better!!!!!

Ricotta Peach Pancakes
1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Ricotta
1 Cup Milk
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract (You can use vanilla but I think almond brings out the flavor of the ricotta flavor more.)
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Peaches
Butter for the skillet

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl then set aside.
In medium bowl whisk together ricotta, mild, eggs, extract, and lemon zest.
Ad wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. (If you over mix you will not get a light fluffy pancake.)
Melt butter in skillet, pour 1/4 cup of batter in and place three slices of peaches on top.  Cook until edges are dry and bubbles form on top.  Check bottom for brownness, and flip. Cook for a minute or two on other side and set aside or serve.  If you're setting aside, make sure to cover with a lid or towel to keep them warm.

To make the Caramelized Peaches (which we used as a syrup)
2 Medium Peaches pitted, and sliced
4 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar (I like to use dark brown but light brown is good to.)
The juice of 1 lemon
Sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger. (Optional)

Melt butter in skillet.
Slice peaches and place in melted butter.
Add brown sugar and spices if using.  I like the combination of cinnamon and ginger with peaches.
Squeeze lemon juice in skillet and toss peaches.  Make sure to shake or stir often to cook peaches and create the caramel.
This is ALSO good over vanilla ice cream.  YUM!

I love using ricotta as much as possible.  So I already have wheels turning to try something else. 
Dinner's planned and working on prepping that.  Lazy Sundays when the heats high.  Spending time with hubby and just being chill.  The thought of what's coming for dinner is exciting ... can wait to share it with you!!!!  In the meantime.... Remember the best ingredient is you ... Enjoy!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Brave the heat for this one!

As I sat watching the weather for my area I became totally depressed when I saw that the temperatures for the next 7 days will be in the mid to upper 90's with high humidities.  That means no baking like we planned for Sunday breakfast. *Sighs*  So since it got cooler here recently and definitely cooler at night I figured a treat was in order before the heat descended upon us again.  Deciding to bake something is always a challenge because there is always so much to choose from, but you'r limited to what's in the pantry and fridge.  But this time I knew what I wanted to make, now I just had to find what I needed.  
I am in LOVE with dark chocolate.  Milk chocolate is OK and hubby LOVES white chocolate but dark is my definite weakness.  So I knew dark chocolate cupcake is what I was going to make, but what frosting.  I'm the type of person that chocolate on chocolate is fine but I like different.  I know that coffee enhances the flavor or chocolate.  Makes it richer so I wanted to search for a coffee frosting.  What I found was even better.  What I did to it made it marvelous.  But you must love coffee to do this one.  Oh you could make it with less coffee flavor but it wouldn't be marvelous then would it? *winks* 

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Hot Brewed Coffee
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powdered (I used Hersey's dark chocolate powder.)
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/ Teaspoon Almond Extract
1 Large Egg, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place liners in muffin tin.  (Note:  This recipe makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular size.)
Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Mix hot coffee and cocoa in a small bowl until cocoa is dissolved.
Beat butter until smooth.  Gradually add sugar.  Once sugar is incorporated, beat for an additional  minutes.
Beat in almond extract and eggs.  Beat until incorporated.
Turn mixer on low, alternate adding flour mixture and cocoa mixture.
Fill muffin tins 2/3 the way full and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely before frosting.

Now for a yummy yummy frosting!!!!!

Coffee chocolate almond frosting recipe
I say almond because you do taste the almond even though you don't use much!
1 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Unsweetend Cocoa Powdered (I used Hersey's dark chocolate powder.)
1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
3 Tablespoon Strong Brewed Coffee
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1 1/2 Teaspoon Instant Coffee

Sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder together in medium bowl and set aside.
Cream butter until creamy.
Gradually add alternating sugar and brewed coffee, beat until smooth.
Beat instant coffee into frosting and refrigerate until ready to frost

Like I said, you must love coffee but if you don't want a strong coffee flavor you can add the instant coffee 1/2 a teaspoon at time tasting after each addition to your liking.

This is one that is definitely one to brave the heat for.  Hubby can't wait for me to make them again.  No higher praise I tell you!
Remember the best ingredient is you.... Enjoy!!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A tip and a treat!

I was on my Facebook and saw a post that had me stopping in my tracks, one that I just HAD to share with you.  How many of you have seen the advertisement for the pan to create a taco bowl?  I said to hubby, "Wow!  That would be neat!"  His response to me was how often would you use that.  I had to laugh.  He's right.  So when I saw this I thought, heck I don't need that pan I have something to do that already here at home.  (

(Photo courtesy of The Garden Pantry)

To create those, turn your muffin pan upside down, spay with cooking spray and bake tortillas for at 375F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
I just had to share this on my wall!  So as people started to comment, an old school friend (Thanks Cassandra) said she bet it would work for her won-tons and the mini muffing tin.  And I thought WONDERFUL idea.  I just happen to have won-ton wrappers in the fridge.  Let's try it!

 It's a little blurry ... sorry about that!
I put some freshly ground some cinnamon and sugar on the won-ton wrapper, sprayed the pan, tucked the won-ton wrappers in and popped them in the oven.  Baked for 10 minutes and took them out and set aside to cool.  Now the question was what to fill it with.  I am apple and pear crazy lately so what better to fill them with.  
So I took half of an apple and half of a pear, peeled and chopped them up, sprinkled some all spice on them, tossed them in a tablespoon of melted butter with some toasted, sliced almonds and sauteed until soft, but firm.  Put about a tablespoon in each cup (of course you can fill it up as much as you want), drizzle some home made caramel syrup over it and WOAH!  So yum!  For those looking for something quick and a small dessert, this is a wonderful treat. Can't wait for hubby to try them! Remember the best ingredient to any recipe is you ... Enjoy!!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The ribs, the sauce, the simple, and the side.

For dinner we had to do something other 
than simple.  Can only use the heat as a reason not to cook for so long. *winks*  So I took out some pork ribs.  But I knew I definitely wanted to do something different.  Add a different flair of flavor to them.  Do something that I don't normally do to them.  Season them some kind of way that I don't normally season them.  Question was would I do it with the seasoning I put on them?  By the sides that I would make?  By how they got cooked?  So I started searching the spice cabinet, and nothing was striking me as "different".  Everything seemed like the same old flavor.  So we decided on grilling them, give hubby something to do too.  But I still had to figure out how  to season them.  I'm all about having something fresh in the meal.  Looking in the fridge .... something struck me.  Sweet, fresh, definitely goes with pork.  Result was a delicious balsamic peach barbecue sauce.   It was tart, sweet, and fresh.  And definitely added the right "different flair" that I was looking for.   

Balsamic Peach Barbecue Recipe
1 Teaspoon Canola Oil 
1 Small onion, chopped
OPTIONAL - 2 Jalapenos, chopped~ The reason I say optional is because some like it spicy so you can either seed or not seed and they are not required in the sauce.  My hubby and I don't "do" spicy so I omit this ingredient but it definitely DOESN'T take anything away from the sauce.
2 Large or 3 Medium Ripe pieces, chopped 
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Honey
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard (I like to use wholegrain.)
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar (I like to use dark brown sugar where ever I can.)
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper ( I like to use fresh ground.)

Heat oil and onions (peppers as well if you're using them) until tender, approximately 4-5 minutes.
Stir in peaches, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.
Let boil about a minute as this will allow the peaches to start to break down.
Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened. (Approximately 15 - 20 minutes)
Use right away or set aside and let come to room temperature before storing.  When I make a homemade barbecue sauce I generally like them a little thicker.  In this recipe I took about 3/4 of a cup of the sauce and pureed it together and put it back in the pot and let it cook for a few more minutes to reincorporate the ingredients.

Add to the meal what I like to call Italian mac and cheese.  Very simple and something I always have in my home.  Cooked up some orzo pasta, added a couple tablespoons of butter, some shredded cheese of asiago, fontina, parmesan, and provolone (I buy this blend from my local supermarket), couple splashes of milk and poof Italian mac and cheese.  
Add a simple salad and there is nothing better. Definitely drool worthy.  
I like to freeze my left over sauces to keep for another time if I'm not going to use it right away.  They freeze well and make wonderful gifts too.  (hint hint)  That's the thing about cooking and baking.  There is always something to do with it.  Food is a common bond for people.  Something that you can share with others.  So share away ... Enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Simple ... and the request

Another not as hot day so we slept in.  Woo hoo! But now what to make for breakfast.  Hubby and I have this "rule", I cook 2 weekends and he cooks 2 weekends.  Works for us since breakfast is the best meal he can make.  *laughs*  

So since we overslept I made what I called an open faced scrambled egg sandwich. You can probably guess what it is.

Yep simple and delish.  I cheated a little.  I used the precooked bacon and crumbled it up really fine.  Sauteed some mushrooms and a shallot.  Added the eggs and some feta cheese.  Made toast from wheat bread, buttered it and put the eggs on top and served.  It was definitely quick and just light enough.  Of course next weekend is hubby's turn.  So I made a request.  There is one thing that he makes well.  So I like to request it from him every couple months.  So next weeks breakfast will be chorizo and eggs.  Of course turn about is fair play.  So he made his own request.  My corned bread coffee cake.  So here's hoping that it's as cool next weekend as it was this weekend. 

So I had to dig out the recipe for the cake.  
Recipe for Corned Bread Coffee Cake
1 Cup Sifted All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar (I used dark brown sugar as I like the smoky flavor it gives off.)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Cornmeal
1 Egg, beaten
1 Cup Milk
3 Tablespoons Cooking oil (I used canola oil, can use vegetable or olive)
1/2 Cup Preserves (Your favorite flavor.)
1 Tablespoon Sugar

Preheat oven to 425.
Sift together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk in cornmeal.
Beat egg, add milk and oil and beat together.
Add wet mixture to dry ingredients.
Beat just until smooth.
Spread batter in greased 9" cake pan.
Spoon preserves over batter and cut into the cake.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon on top of cake.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

We LOVE this cake because it's not a VERY sweet cake.  Add a chocolate cinnamon coffee, OH BOY!  So looking forward to next Sunday.  Can someone fast forward please?! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tasty cool dinner .... relief from the heat.

Finally some relief from the heat so WHO wants to heat up the house to cook something?  But eating out is not only not as healthy but can be expensive.  I made a wonderful chilled salad that was not only healthy but oh so yummy and was able to incorporate things from the garden.

Tuna noodle salad.  I'm sure your moms, or you yourself have a different name for it ... I say we just call it yummy!  With temperatures in the 100s for DAYS when it finally breaks I definitely didn't want to heat up the house making an elaborate HOT dinner. 

Above is the result of not heating up the house but wanting something healthy since we ate out too many times this week due to loosing electricity for almost 2 days.

My recipe for Tuna Noodle Salad
6oz Wheat pasta shells, cooked according to package directions, drained, and chilled
3 Large Eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and chopped bite size pieces
3 7oz cans tuna, drained
1 can petite peas, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, diced bite size
2 stalks celery, diced bite size
6oz Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 zucchini, diced bite size (Right out of the garden.)
1 Tablespoon dill, minced (Right out of the garden.)
2/3 Cup mayo
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
Some fresh ground black pepper

Mix it together and chill for a least 1/2 hour.  

You can pretty much add whatever you want or you can make it simply with tuna and noodles.  Every recipe is open to interpretation.  That's the best thing about cooking.  Doesn't hurt to try something once, then you know not to do it again.  I like using recipes as ideas and doing what I know we will or won't like.  It just that easy.  But you have to like to experiment.  It's not expensive to do that and you end up creating such wonderful meals, snack, or desserts.  I love using what I have learned and sharing it with people.  But as I give them the recipe, and you will notice when I write the recipe I used, they can change to suit their taste.  THAT is the most important ingredient in any recipe, YOU.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

A favorite sandwich turned treat!

How many of us grew up LOVING peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  And then passed that love down to your children?  How many still love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches today?  

One day I was sitting trying to think up something to take to my best friend's house for my "nephews".  I know they love anything chocolate but I wanted something different, heck they can get those at their local store bakery.  Then I was talking to the bestie when she said the kids were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and said how much they LOVE them just as much as we did when we were kids.  I said "Woah!  I still do!" 

So how to make one .... everyone's opinion or even the recipes I found online were for a yellow cake batter.  I don't know about you all but when I think of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I think of white bread with peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other.  So yellow cake just would not do!  So I made a white cake batter, filled with jelly/preserves, and topped with peanut butter frosting.  Talk about happy memories!  

Remember I did say that not all the pictures would be pretty. *snickers*  And yes I do know what it looks like.  It just happened to be my first experiment with using my pipping kit.  I LOVE that you can use your favorite jelly or preserves to fill the cupcake.  Hubby's favorite is grape jelly (as seen above) and mine is strawberry preserves.  So whatever your flavor, us it to fill it.  I have also used almond butter, but I'm sure you can use any nut butter, to make the frosting.  To create the well, they do have cupcake well makers that they sell but why waste your money, use a apple corer to create the well.  But don't throw away the core, use the cake to cap/cover the filling before frosting.  

To make the White Cupcake Recipe
1 Cup All purpose flour
1 1/4 Cup Cake flour
1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Whole milk, room temperature
6 Large (3/4 Cup) egg whites, at room temperature
2 Teaspoons Almond Extract
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoon Sugar
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
12 Tablespoon Unsalted butter, softened but still cool

Preheat oven to 350.
Pour milk, egg whites, extracts, into small bowl and beat together.
Sift flours (all purpose and cake), sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl.
Add butter to dry ingredients, start mixing on low.  Mix until ingredients look like moist crumbs with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to flour/butter mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes.
Add remaining milk mixture beat 30 seconds more.
Scrape bowl, beat again for 20 seconds more.
Fill cupcake tin (I like to paper line mine) 2/3 the way full.  Bake 15 - 17 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes then remove to let cool completely.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe
1/2 Cup Unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup Peanut butter (Note: can substitute with another nut butter as you desire)
2 - 4 Cups Sifted powdered sugar (I used 2 to cut down on the sugar AND because there will be additional sweetness from whatever you put it on.)
1/3 Cup Heavy cream or whole milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla (I, however, like to use almond extract when making a nut butter frosting.)

Cream butter and peanut butter until smooth and fluffy.
Add 1 cup of shifted powdered sugar at a time, beating on low and increase speed.
Alternate milk/cream with powdered sugar until texture of frosting is what you want.  
Once you have the right texture and sweetness add extract, and beat on high for 1 minute.
Refrigerate until ready to use. 
Remember to let frosting come to room temperature before spreading or pipping. 

Try it!  Make it with the kids and let them fill them with their favorite jelly.  I hope it brings back wonderful memories for you as well!!!!!