Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spicy Tofu with Peppers

OMG, my mouth is on FIRE. This recipe is definitely for those who like HEAT. I like spicy, but this was definitely SPICY, but SO tasty. I couldn't stop eating it (drinking large amounts of water in between bites.) Next time, I will halve the chili-garlic sauce (my preference). You could also use shrimp instead of the tofu. It was very quick to put together, and a great protein alternative to meat. This will definitely go into my weekly rotation.

1 block of firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed (to get the excess liquid out) and cut into bite-sized pieces (Next time, I will use 2 packages)
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (I used red bell, but can use green, yellow, or combination)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce (I will halve this next time)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup chicken broth (I used chicken stock)
Green onions, chopped (optional)
Cooked rice or noodles (optional)

1. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil into a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add tofu blocks and cook about 12-15 minutes until they start to get lightly brown.
3. Add onions, pepper, and garlic. Saute 15-20 minutes until semi-soft.
4. Add chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, and chicken broth. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes- sauce will slightly thicken.
* Serve over rice or noodles, and top with green onions.

Source: Adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Insanely Good Pumpkin-Chocolate Muffins

True to its name, these are INSANELY good! When my college roommate Laura found out I started this cooking blog, she eagerly shared this recipe and said it "was seriously the most amazing muffins [she] has ever had in [her] life!", and Laura is an excellent cook. How could I NOT try it? The combination of flavors were perfect (even for me who's not a strong cinnamon flavor gal), and the end result? A fluffy, moist, crumbly muffin with a touch of chocolatey goodness. My DB groaned at his first bite. I know that I'll be making this year round... and probably another batch this week. To make the muffins uniform in size, I used my large cookie scoop, which was the perfect amount. Although not necessary, I also made a not-too-sweet cream cheese spread (recipe below) to accompany the muffins- something that would not overpower the muffins but make a good compliment. 4/29/09 UPDATE: I brought these into work today and got rave reviews!

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
12-oz bag chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks and LOVED the large chunks!)
15-oz can 100% pure pumpkin
1/2 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp molasses

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners.
2. Combine all dry ingredients (flour through cloves) into a large bowl and stir well. Add chocolate chips and stir. (Dusting the chocolate chips with flour helps to prevent the chips from sinking to the bottom of the cake batter.)
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, milk, oil, and molasses.
4. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix, just until combined.
5. Fill the muffin cups full.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes (I baked them for 19 minutes), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Eat and be merry!

Yield: 18 muffins
Source: Adapted from SundryBuzz (As suggested by Laura)

Cream Cheese Spread
8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar

1. In a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and butter on high speed until light and fluffy, approx. 5 minutes.
2. Add vanilla and mix.
3. Slowly add powdered sugar until all sugar is incorporated. Mix for 3 minutes on high, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Ina strikes again- it's great knowing I can always rely on her to deliver simple yet delicious meals time and time again. I used her recipe to make a side dish for my Raspberry Balsamic Chicken. These potatoes were FABulous. The outside of the potatoes were slightly crispy (reminded me of french fries), the inside was soft and steamy, and the garlic and rosemary combination was wonderful. Since it uses minimal ingredients, ensure you use fresh garlic and rosemary (not the dried stuff). Nothing could be easier, and tastes better than any restaurant potatoes, in my opinion.

1-1/2 lbs red potatoes
1/8 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil (preferably heavy-duty strength).
2. Quarter the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
3. Place the chopped potatoes into a large bowl (or gallon-size Ziploc bag). Add the remaining ingredients. Toss well to coat:

4. Place the potatoes onto the foil-lined pan in a single layer:

5. Bake for approx. 1 hour, until browned and crisp. Flip the potatoes twice during cooking.

Comment: The potatoes stuck to the foil, and it was a challenge trying to "flip" the potatoes midway through baking because of this. Next time, I will try using either the "Easy release" foil or parchment paper.

Source: Ina Garten

Raspberry Balsamic Chicken

I wanted something easy yet healthy to cook dinner tonight, and this recipe was recommended by Jen&Louie as a "must try"- and it was so good! My DB had 2 healthy servings of this dish. What I loved was that it contained ingredients I had on hand, easy to prepare, flavorful... and HEALTHY. The succulent chicken had the nice, deep woodsy rosemary flavor, and the raspberry preserves and balsamic vinegar gave the chicken a nice contrasting sweet flavor. I served this dish with Rosemary roasted potatoes. What a great combination.

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt, divided
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot.
2. Add onion; saute 5 minutes.
3. While the onions are cooking, sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper over chicken.
4. Add chicken to pan; saute 6 minutes on each side or until done.
5. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
6. Add preserves, vinegar and pepper to pan, stirring constantly until preserves melt:

7. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Tip: The easiest (and least messy) way to pound chicken is to place the chicken breasts in a gallon-size Ziploc bag, remove all air, close the bag, and pound away using a meat mallet- no mess and no flying chicken parts!

Source: Cooking Light

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I love you, Bobby Flay! (Roast Beef edition)

I was just perusing the Food Network during lunch, and did you know that Bobby Flay has teamed up with Hellmann's to make his version of sandwiches using their Mayo? Sandwiches are great for lunches, but I get so tired of the turkey/cheese or ham/cheese combo- how much more boring can it get? After finding some great recipes online, I decided to try this. I don't normally like roast beef, but this was quite tasty, and can be served as a light dinner option since it's a warm sandwich.

London Broil, Aged Cheddar, and Watercress on Croissant with Horseradish Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Hellmann's mayo
2 Tbsp Hellmann's Dijonnaise mustard
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish, drained
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb thinly-sliced London broil or Roast beef*
8 slices of Cheddar cheese
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small bunch watercress (I used romaine)
4 croissants, slices cross-wise

1. Make the "special sauce": Whisk together the mayo, Dijonnaise mustard, and horseradish in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper:

2. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the beef in an even layer and cook for 30 seconds per side, just to warm through. Top the slices of beef with 1-2 slices of cheese, cover with a lid and let melt, about 20 seconds.
3. Spread some of the Special sauce on both sides of the croissant (I like the croissant toasted). Layer on the beef, onion, and watercress.

* You can also use 1-1/4 lb cooked flank steak, trimmed of excess fat and pre-marinated in olive oil, chopped garlic, and fresh thyme for at least 2 hours.

Source: Bobby Flay

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anthony's Pasta Salad

Back in my first home, I had a neighbor (Anthony) who made such creative and delicious food! I was always asking for his recipes. When I was throwing a BBQ one night, Anthony came over with this dish and I was sold. It was a nice alternative to the traditional vinaigrette pasta salad, and the flavors are fantastic! To "healthify" this dish, I use whole grain pasta, reduced-fat Miracle Whip and cheese. Make sure to fully drain the pasta and pimentos, as it's already a thin sauce (and adding the extra liquid will thin it out more.) We're heading out to a BBQ tonight and were asked to bring a salad, and I decided to bring this. I hope our friends enjoy it as much as we do.

4-oz jar diced pimentos
1 package small-shaped pasta (penne, rotini, etc.)
18-oz Miracle Whip Light
1/2 small onion, minced finely (I used a food processor)
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar (our family uses this)
(2) blocks 8-oz Cheddar cheese, cubed into bite-sized pieces

1. Drain the pimentos fully. Pat any excess liquid with a paper towel.
2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, rinse with cold water. Strain, and place into a large mixing bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together Miracle Whip, onion, sugar, and rice vinegar.
4. Add the Miracle Whip mixture to the pasta.
5. Add the cubed cheese and pimentos. Make sure to mix carefully so as not to break the shape of the pasta.

6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes so flavors can marry. Best served chilled.

Comment: I've used a variety of small-shaped pasta (elbow, rotini, penne, farfalle, orzo), and my favorite one used was the rotini. Because of the swirl shape to them, the sauce could get into the depths of the shape of the pasta, and every bite had a creamy taste to it.

Donna's Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

We have "Snack Days" at work (frequently but that's ok!), and Donna, an old co-worker, is known for her Cinnamon cream cheese coffeecake. Whenever we have a Snack Day or Bake Sale, they are one of the first items to sell out. I haven't made these in years, but I thought these would be a yummy dessert to bring to a BBQ tonight. They are quick, portable, and a finger food. I hope you enjoy it!

What do I need?

(2) pkgs Crescent rolls (reduced-fat is fine)
(2) 8-oz pkgs Cream cheese (reduced-fat is fine)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 metal pan with cooking spray.
2. Cover the bottom of the pan with 1 package of Crescent rolls. Make sure to spread the crescent rolls over the entire bottom of the pan, pinching the perforated sections together:

3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, vanilla, and 1 cup of sugar; Mix well until light and fluffy. Spread over the rolls.
4. Cover cream cheese mixture with 2nd package of crescent rolls, ensuring it's completely covering the cream cheese mixture (like in Step #2).
5. Drizzle melted butter on top.
6. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon over the butter.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
8. Cool and chill to serve.

Eat me!

Friday, April 24, 2009

My favorite grilled cheese sandwich (and Pioneer Woman's too)

What is better than buttered and toasted bread with warm, melted cheese? Not a whole lot. You can't quite compete with a good grilled cheese sandwich... UNTIL NOW. Adding slivered red onion, sliced tomatoes, and green chiles- and you've got yourself a gourmet grilled cheese. And let me tell you- it is even better than the regular grilled cheese sandwich with not that much more of effort. You can customize the cheese to whatever combo you want too. You've GOT to try this.

The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich
1 Tbsp Hellmann's mayo
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 medium tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced thin
4 slices of mild cheddar (I used Havarti)
4 slices of provolone
Green chiles, whole or diced
4 slices of Rye bread (I used whole-wheat)
Butter, softened (I love this!)

1. Heat skillet over LOW heat. Make the "special sauce": Combine the mayo and dijon mustard in a small bowl.
2. Spread a thin layer onto the inside of all the bread slices. (Only a thin layer is necessary! No globs here.)
3. Slice a ripe tomato. Thinly slice a red onion.
4. Place 2 slices of ripe tomato on one piece of bread, and 2 slices of cheddar on the other slice. On top of the tomato, place several slices of red onion, followed by 2 slices of provolone cheese.
4. Place green chiles on top of your provolone. Now very carefully put the 2 halves of this glorious sandwich together.
5. Spread softened butter on top of the bread. Place the buttered side onto the warmed skillet. Repeat the butter process on the other side.
6. Let the sandwich cook for approx. 5 minutes. This will ensure that the middle gets warm and melted. Flip and continue cooking for a few minutes, until golden brown.
7. Remove to a cutting board, slice in half, and eat.

Yield: 2 sandwiches
Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Cheesy (and Easy!) Taco Bake

I had some taco seasoning mix but wanted to steer away from boring tacos for dinner... then came this Cheesy Taco bake. This was very easy and used ingredients I already had on hand. It was a nice change of pace to regular tacos! Ole!

1-1/2 cups cooked rice (or small-shape pasta)
1-lb ground turkey (can use ground beef or chicken)
1 packet taco seasoning
15-oz tomato sauce
8-oz package cream cheese, softened (reduced-fat is fine)
1/2 cup sour cream (used fat-free)
8-oz shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
Taco sauce or Hot sauce (optional)
Tortilla chips (optional)

1. Cook rice or pasta, according to directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2-qt Pyrex baking dish with cooking spray.
2. While the rice or pasta is cooking, brown ground meat; drain. Add taco seasoning mix and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Mix softened cream cheese and sour cream in a separate bowl.
4. Spread the cooked rice/pasta on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer on the cream cheese/sour cream mixture. Layer meat mixture next, and top with shredded cheese.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with taco sauce or hot sauce. Dip with tortilla chips.

Comment: The flavors were somewhat mild for our tastes. Next time, I will use:
- Pepper-jack cheese
- Instead of regular rice, I'll try adding more flavors (do a cilantro/red onion/lime rice, similar to Chipotle.)
- Diced green chiles or jalapenos

Source: Adapted from Lemons & Love

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roasted Chicken in April... Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

I usually have more time to cook nicer meals on the weekends, especially on Sundays. My DB has been in Chicago visiting family all weekend and won't be returning home until 10pm. He's anxiously driving home, and I'm so anxious to see him! Since he won't be stopping for dinner on the way, I thought I could prepare something warm and flavorful for when he gets home... and boy, does it smell good in here. The subtle aroma of lemon and garlic are coming from the kitchen and filling up the house. Albeit its long roasting time (2-3 hours, depending on the size of turkey), it's very simple and quick to put this elegant dish together.The turkey was succulent, moist, and produced very tender meat with a hint of garlic and lemon.. and since it's just the 2 of us, we'll have leftover chicken to add to soups, salads, casseroles, chicken salad, (oh the options!)

5-6 lb. roasting chicken or turkey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch of fresh thyme
4 lemons, halved
3 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise (remove excess outer papery skin)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2-lb sliced bacon

1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken/turkey inside and out, and pat dry.
3. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.
4. Stuff the inner cavity with 1/2 of the thyme, 2 lemon halves, and 2 halves of the garlic.
5. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter, and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.
6. Scatter the remaining lemon halves, garlic halves, and thyme around the chicken.
7. Lay the bacon slices over the chicken to cover.
8. Roast the chicken for 1 hour.
9. Remove the bacon slices from the top of the chicken and set aside. Continue roasting the chicken for an additional 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.
10. Remove to a platter, and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.

1. In the roasting pan, remove all but 2 Tbsp of fat from the bottom of the pan.
2. Add white wine and chicken stock, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
3. Slice the chicken on a platter. Garnish the chicken with the bacon slices, roasted garlic, reserved thyme, and lemons. Serve with gravy.

Quick note: I used an 8.9-lb bone-in turkey breast. I roasted it for 2-1/2 hours at 325 degrees, removed the bacon, and then placed it back in the oven for an another 40 more minutes.

Comment: While I loved the turkey, I didn't care for the gravy- it didn't thicken at all, despite reducing the stock/wine mixture by half. I won't be making this again.

Source: Loosely adapted from Ina Garten

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vicki's Ranch Cheese-It Crackers

I know these are normally made with oyster crackers, but using Cheese-Its brings this salty snack to a whole new level of YUM. (Seriously.) I love the Ranch Oyster Cracker recipe, but I L-O-V-E this recipe! I got this recipe from Vicki (a co-worker) when we had a potluck at work one afternoon, and I kept grabbing and munching on these snacks. Vicki was nice enough to let me have the recipe. My DB is heading to Chicago this weekend and I'm packing up a "snack bag" for him- and thought this would be a good salty crunch while he's driving though the cornfields of Ohio.

3/4-1 cup vegetable oil (I used 3/4 cup)
1 packet (1 oz, or 3 Tbsp) Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Salad Dressing Mix
1/2-1 tsp dill weed (I used 1 tsp dill)
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
16-oz box Cheese-It crackers (I used 13.7-oz box)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil.
2. Add vegetable oil to a large bowl. Whisk in Ranch Seasoning Mix.
3. Add dill weed, lemon pepper, and garlic powder to the mixing bowl. Whisk well.
4. Add the box of Cheese-Its to the bowl. Make sure you mix well so seasoning is on all crackers.
5. Place the seasoned crackers in a single layer on your lined cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes.
** Once cooled for 10 minutes, I placed my baked crackers into a gallon Ziploc bag and placed them in the fridge to accelerate the cooling process.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chicken Patties

I really don't watch a lot of TV- but when I do, it's usually only on 2 stations. News? Nah. TV shows? I'd rather buy it on DVD and skip the commercials. Reality shows? PASS... So you must be thinking- what else could she be watching? E! Channel and Food Network! Nothing like some juicy celebrity gossip while you cook your dinner. I watch Food Network so much that my DB watches it- even when I can't- and one of his favorite FN (Food Network) stars is none other than... GUY FIERI. His laid-back and one-of-the-guys approach is inviting, and it just makes you want to be his friend. I mean- who wouldn't want to get paid to travel across the country and try all the "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives"? This meal is what I call an "all-in-one": it contains protein, veggies, and carbs (whole wheat). It's like a power meal all packed in one spicy sandwich. In an effort to "healthify" burgers, this uses ground chicken (ground turkey in our case)- healthier for you, but still has a BIG BITE.

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, diced
4 Tbsp black olives, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (or jarred roasted red pepper- drain and pat dry)
1 jalapeno, diced (or 2-2.5 Tbsp jarred, sliced jalapenos- run knife through it to dice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced artichoke hearts (canned)
1-1/2 lbs ground chicken
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley)
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp celery salt (used 1/4 tsp celery seed & 1/4 tsp salt)
1/4 tsp ground sage
2 Tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg

Toasted hamburger buns
Tomato, sliced

1. In a medium saute pan over medium-low heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and all raw vegetables (red onion through artichoke hearts), and saute until translucent and slightly tender. Remove and cool.

2. Add vegetables to raw ground chicken, and mix thoroughly.
3. Add all dry ingredients and 1 egg. Thoroughly mix all ingredients and form into 4 patties. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. In the same saute pan, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil, and cook the patties 2-3 minutes per side... or if you prefer, you can grill the patties.
5. Serve with ketschup and mustard on a toasted burger bun with lettuce and tomato.

Homemade Ranch dressing on toasted Whole Wheat bread, Chicken Patties topped with Pepper-Jack cheese, and Garlic Fries on the side!

Source: Loosely adapted from Guy Fieri

Pork Chops with Golden Apple Sauce

I am the condiment queen. I am a firm believer that any food item dipped in a sauce of any kind will enhance the food itself. No arguing about it. And what are my favorite sauces of choice, you ask? Ketchup and A-1 sauce. Really. You can put either of these 2 sauces and it will bring your food to a new level of tastiness. I am a huge fan of both- so much that I am a fan of both condiments on Facebook. However, there is a (rare) time when I eat pork, I have to choose another condiment- applesauce. I grew up eating apples with my pork chops. My DB just can't get it, but for those of you who haven't tried this delicious combo- don't knock it until you try it. The pork chops are loaded with flavor, and the applesauce is over-the-top delicious.

4 Golden Delicious apples, chopped (I used Gala and Granny Smith)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 oz. golden raisins, a handful
1-in piece of fresh ginger root (I used 1/8 tsp fresh ginger)
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 cups all natural apple juice or cider (I used this), plus a splash for pan sauce
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
(4) 1-inch thick center cut boneless pork chops (6-8 oz each)
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbsp butter

1. Combine first 8 ingredients (apples through nutmeg) in a medium pot placed over medium-high heat, and cook until a chunky sauce forms, 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce begins to spatter as it bubbles, reduce the heat back a little. Once apples are soft and sauce forms, remove from heat.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan.
3. Season chops on 1 side with S&P. Using a pair of tongs, add chops to the hot skillet, seasoned side down. Season the opposite side of the chops with S and P. Brown and caramelize the chops 2 minutes on each side, then reduce heat to medium and cook another 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until juices run clear.
4. Remove chops from heat and let them rest for a few minutes for the juices to redistribute.
5. Deglaze the pan with a splash of apple juice and 2 Tbsp butter. (Make sure to really get those browned bits on the bottom of the pan- that's where all the flavoring is!)
6. Pour pan sauce over chops. Remove ginger root from the sauce, and top the chop with generous portions of warm golden apple sauce.

Source: Rachael Ray

Angie's Famous Strawberry Cupcakes

I'll tell you- one thing this cooking blog has motivated me to do is try new things- tasks that previously made me too scared to try. But I finally tackled this job- frosting cupcakes using a decorating piping bag and tips. But, in order for me to achieve this noteworthy task, I knew I had to have some noteworthy cupcakes to pair it with, and in came these Strawberry cupcakes. With Easter weekend upon us, I wanted to go with a light and fruity cupcake. I've been hearing lots of fantastic reviews of this recipe, so I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to try it. My DB is eating 2-3 of these... at a time. You should too, they are worth it! You won't be able to eat just one. (Edited to add: The frosting consistency is somewhat runny; thus, it is not the ideal frosting to pipe.)

2-1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar (or a little less)
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chopped strawberries

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup strawberries
1 Tbsp strawberry liquor (I took some berries and mashed them until I got 1 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
8-oz cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 cupcake pans.
2. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy- 4-5 minutes.
4. Add eggs, one at a time.
5. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until combined.
6. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined (don't overmix!)
7. Fold in 2 cups of chopped strawberries.
8. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 way, and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will be golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

To make the frosting
1. Place 1/4 cup chopped strawberries, liquor, and juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool, then blend until smooth (by hand, mixer, food processor, or blender).
2. In the bowl of a mixer, mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.
3. Add sugar, then vanilla.
4. Add berry puree, and mix until smooth.
5. Frost cupcakes when they are completely cooled. (I used this, which had these items within, purchased at Kohl's)

Source: Adapted from Katie of Good Things Catered

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sweet Orange Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze

I wanted to make some baked goods for some co-workers who helped me on short notice. Since it's still chilly, something warm came to mind... and something that wasn't chocolate-y or over-the-top sweet. I came across this muffin recipe and knew it would be perfect. Warm orange muffins with a sweet brown sugar glaze- who could resist? The cake was of light texture with a hint of oranges- perfect for a chilly morning! Next time, I will add some orange inside the muffin, so I can get a burst of orange goodness in a bite of these muffins.

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or add 1 Tbsp white vinegar to just under 1 cup of milk)
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
Grated rind of 2 oranges (outside orange color only- not the white under!)

Brown Sugar Glaze
Juice of 2 oranges (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy- 4-5 minutes.
3. Add eggs and mix well.
4. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk; pour in mixing bowl.
5. Add 2 cups of flour and orange rind, and mix together well, just until incorporated (don't overmix).
6. Fill muffin or mini-muffin pans, and bake for 12-17 minutes or until light golden. Remove from oven, and poke holes in each muffin with a toothpick.
7. To make the Glaze, combine 1 cup brown sugar with the juice of 2 oranges. Stir together, and drizzle over warm muffins. Remove from pans immediately and eat warm! Mmmm...

I know you want to eat me... "Orange" you glad I posted this recipe?

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

We are currently in the midst of painters painting the interior of our home, so our kitchen capacity was rather limited. Granted, our oven and refrigerator are still plugged in, but all utensils and kitchen electrics were being stored in other areas in our home (mainly our bedroom, where we are needing to carefully tip-toe around the stand mixer, toaster oven, etc.) Burgers came to mind since all ingredients can be thrown together in a bowl quickly, and Ellie's burger recipe had caught my eye a weeks back. What I really liked about this recipe was that a) it contains ground turkey (aka. healthy) and b) oh how I love Greek food. Every time I bit into this, I had a fresh burst of feta flavor fill my mouth... wow- such a robust taste! This recipe also calls for a creamy "Tangy Sauce" (and everyone knows I love my condiments). I even used 99% lean ground turkey, and it wasn't overly dry (as I was expecting). The turkey held together really well (and didn't crumble while cooking). Just to get the maximum Greek experience, we ate this while watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Opa!

1 lb ground turkey breast (85/15 or 99% lean are both good options)
2 oz feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
2 Tbsp sliced sun-dried tomatoes
3 Tbsp finely chopped onions
2 tsp Greek seasoning (I used Cavender's Greek Seasoning)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Pepper, to taste
Cooking spray
4 Hamburger buns, buttered and toasted

Special Tangy Sauce
4 Tbsp Hellmann's mayo
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Greek seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Pepper, to taste

1. Make the Tangy Sauce- Stir all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside in fridge while you make the turkey burgers.
2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients (except cooking spray and buns.

3. Mix ground turkey mixture until incorporated. (I use a disposable latex glove since I don't like touching ground meat with my hands.)
4. Form the mixture into 3-4 patties, shaping lightly with your hands.

5. Either on the grill or frying pan, spray with cooking spray and place patties. Keep in mind that ground turkey/chicken meat isn't similar to ground beef- you can't cook it to "medium"- you have to cook poultry until it is well-done. (Since I used 99% lean turkey, I cooked my heat on medium-low to medium setting since I wanted to ensure the outside of the turkey didn't cook at a quicker rate than the inside.)
6. Place burger into your prepared toasted and buttered buns, and top with the special Tangy Sauce and desired vegetables.

Tip: I would make the Tangy Sauce prior to making the burgers. The Sauce contains a lot of seasonings, and when I tried the sauce right after I made it, I could still feel the "gritty" texture of the seasonings. Allowing the sauce to sit aside marries all the flavors, and by the time the burgers are cooked, the gritty texture has had time to incorporate into the sauce and you're left with a smooth, creamy texture.

Source: Adapted from Ellie of Vintage Victuals

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How to... Measure

To ensure delicious and consistent cooking results, it is important to know how to accurately measure ingredients. Not all measuring cups are the same, and not all ingredients are measured in the same manner. There are specific measuring cups designated for liquids and dry ingredients, and they can't be interchanged! The conversions, food equivalents, and measuring techniques are listed below.

Measuring Liquid Ingredients
· 1 Tbsp = ½ fluid ounce
· 2 Tbsp = 1 fluid ounce
· 3 Tbsp = 1.5 fluid ounce
· ½ cup = 4 fluid ounce
· 1 cup = 8 fluid ounce = ½ pint
· 2 cups = 16 fluid ounce = 1 pint
· 4 cups = 32 fluid ounce = 1 quart
· 2 pints = 32 fluid ounce = 1 quart
· 8 cups = 64 fluid ounce = 4 pints
· 4 quarts = 1 gallon

Measuring Semi-Liquid Ingredients
· 1/4 stick of butter = 2 Tbsp = 1/8 cup = 2 oz.
· ½ stick of butter = 4 Tbsp = ¼ cup = 4 oz.
· 1 stick of butter = 8 Tbsp = ½ cup = 8 oz.
· 2 sticks of butter = 1 cup = 1/2 lb. butter
· 4 sticks of butter = 2 cups = 1 lb. butter

Measuring Dry Ingredients
· 1 Tbsp = 3 tsp
· 1/8 cup = 2 Tbsp
· ¼ cup = 4 Tbsp
· ½ cup = 8 Tbsp = 4 oz.
· ¾ cup = 12 Tbsp
· 1 cup = 16 Tbsp = 8 oz.

Food Equivalents
· Almonds, slivered (4-oz) = ¾ cups
· Coconut, flaked or shredded (7-oz) = 2-2/3 cups
· Cheese (16-oz package) = 1 lb
· Cream cheese (8-oz package) = 1/2 lb
· Flour, All purpose, unsifted (1 lb) = 3.5 cups
· Flour, All purpose, sifted (1 lb) = 4 cups
· Flour, Cake, sifted (1 lb) = 4-3/4 cups
· Flour, Whole Wheat, unsifted (1 lb) = 3-1/3 cups
· Honey (1 lb) = 1-1/3 cups
· Peanut butter (18-oz jar) = 2 cups
· Pecans, chopped (2-oz) = ½ cup
· Pistachios, with shells (4-oz) = 1 cup
· Pistachios, shelled (4-oz) = ½ cup
· Sugar, Powdered, unsifted (1 lb) = 3-3/4 cups
· Sugar, Powdered, unsifted (1-1/2 lb) = 5-5/8 cups
· Sugar, Brown, packed (1 lb)= 2-1/4 cups
· Sugar, Granulated, unsifted (1 lb) = 3-3/4 cups
· Walnuts, chopped (2-oz) = ½ cup

Here’s the basic guide to measuring common ingredients:
· Baking powder, Baking soda- Using the measuring spoon, lightly scoop out of the container. Use a knife to level off even with the top edge of the spoon.
· Brown sugar- Needs to be packed in the measuring cup. Brown sugar should retain its shape of the cup when dropped into bowl.
· Chopped ingredients- Pay close attention to whether or not an ingredient is to be chopped, diced or minced, and whether they are measured before chopping or after. Then the foods are placed in the measuring up so the top is level with the surface.
· Flour- Lightly spoon flour from the container into the measuring cup. Do not shake the cup and do not pack the flour! Using the back of a knife, level off the flour even with the top edge of the measuring cup.
· Liquid ingredients- Liquids need to be measured at eye level. Using a liquid measuring cup, pour the liquid into the cup. Then bend over so you are on the same level with the measuring marks. The liquid should be right at the mark- not above or below.
· Liquid ingredients in spoons- Make sure not to measure small amounts of liquid ingredients over the mixing bowl. It’s just too easy to spill!
· Powdered sugar- Powdered sugar needs to be sifted to remove small lumps. It is measured by spooning the sugar into the measuring cup from the container, then leveling off with the back of a knife.
· Semi-Liquid ingredients (sour cream, peanut butter, yogurt, etc.)- Use dry measuring cups. Level off with the back of a knife.
· Shortening and Fats (butter, margarine, mayo, etc.)
o Butter and Margarine have measurements on the stick. (See “Measuring Semi-Liquid ingredients” above)
o Solid shortening is measured by packing it into a dry measuring cup so there is no air spaces, then leveling with a knife.
o Tip: To easily remove fats from measuring cups, spray with non-stick cooking spray prior to measuring.
o Oil is measured as a liquid.
· Sugar- Granulated sugar is measured by scooping the cup into the container until it is overflowing, then leveling off with the back of a knife.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tofu with Green Onion and Ginger Garnish

I went back and forth trying to decide whether I should blog about this. It's a simple and common side item in Japan, but I thought- why not? It'd be the perfect light accompaniment to an Asian dish. It is low-fat and packed with protein. This dish is best served cold. Having grown up in both the US and Japan from Japanese parents, I've grown up eating mainly Japanese dishes. This side item was a consistent fixture on our dinner table as it is easy, simple, yet tasty- and it can be served year-round. I hope you like it as much as our family did. Itadakimasu (Let's eat)!

Tofu- Firm or Extra-firm preferable (Reduced-fat tofu is fine)
3 Green onions, sliced thinly (white and 1/3 of dark green section)
Soy sauce

1. Remove tofu from carton. Pat tofu dry with a paper towel.

2. Place the tofu on a cutting board. Using a long knife, cut the tofu horizontally.

3. Now cut the tofu into small bite-sized blocks.

4. Place tofu blocks on a plate. Garnish with green onions and fresh ginger.
5. Top with soy sauce.

Ingredient Highlights:
1. Ginger- Having fresh ginger is a great option, but I prefer S&B Ginger. The ginger is fresh and stays fresh. It has a longer shelf life than fresh ginger (from the produce section), and keeps well in the fridge for months. I can buy this at my local grocery store in the Asian aisle, or at any Asian market. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh ginger, this is what I use.
2. Soy sauce- There are many brands of soy sauce, but our family strictly uses only 2 brands: Kikkoman or Yamasa. (Reduced-sodium in both brands are good choices too, and can be found in your grocery store's ethnic aisle or Asian market.)
3. Tofu- Any brand is fine, but getting firm or extra-firm is preferable. I usually get reduced-fat, extra-firm tofu. Tofu is made from soy beans and contains a good helping of protein.
4. This has nothing to do with the ingredients, but I wanted to show you my cute chopstick holders. My mom just arrived back from a trip to Japan and purchased these for me. How cute are they?
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