Coconut Chicken Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Can a salad ever really be craveable? I have my doubts. Cupcakes are craveable. Salads are something you eat so that you can eat a cupcake and not feel as guilty. I whipped up a salad this week that really is craveable.  First, start with coconut chicken which immediately makes me feel like I should be on a tropical island. Then I added some mandarin oranges and blueberries because I’m a fan of fruit in my salad.  Then I whipped up a tangy, sweet honey Dijon vinaigrette. Craveable I’m telling ya.

Coconut Chicken Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Yield: 2 portions

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

1 egg

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 bag of mixed greens

1 can of Madarin Oranges

1/4 cup of blueberries

2 Tbsp of slivered almonds

handful of baby carrots, chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey dijon mustard

STEP 1: Cut off any extra fat  from your chicken breasts. Cut each breast into strips to allow for faster cooking.

STEP 2: Prepare your breading station by gathering three bowls. In the first bowl combine the flour and salt. In the second bowl, add the egg and whisk.  In the third bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs and shredded coconut.

STEP 3: Place the vegetable oil in a large heavy duty skillet and heat over medium/high heat until it is just below smoking. You can test the heat by throwing in a little bit of flour. When it is hot enough, the flour will sizzle and create a lot of bubbles.

STEP 4: While the oil is heating, dredge the chicken strips. First, coat each strip in the flour and salt mixture. Then dip each into the egg and finally coat each in panko and shredded coconut. It’s easiest to do all pieces in one bowl before moving onto the next or else your fingers will get pretty messy.

STEP 5: After breading the strips, the oil should be hot enough. Place about 4 strips in the pan at once. There should only be one layer in the pan and there should be about an inch between each strip. If you over crowd the pan it will get too cold and the strips will soak up a lot of oil instead of frying. Fry the strips for 2-3 minutes on each side (longer if needed) or until they are golden brown and crispy. Place them on a plate with paper towel to drain and move on to the next batch.  You may need to add a little extra oil to the pan.

STEP 6: Whisk together your honey, balsamic vinegar, honey dijon mustard and olive oil to make the vinaigrette.

STEP 7: Wash your greens and then add the carrots, blueberries, oranges and almonds. Plate up two portions and then top with your coconut chicken strips and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Italian Flank Steak with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

My month of no processed foods has really made me realize just what a hard job it is to be a homemaker. Growing up, my mom stayed at home with me and my two older sisters. Every night she put a nutritious, often delicious (yep that’s right I said often) meal on the table that she mostly made from scratch. Sure, there were nights were we got a treat and had pizza or something fast, but more often than not she served us vegetables from her garden, homemade bread, etc.  It may sound silly, but this month has really made me realize just how much she did for us.  I remember being quite a brat many a nights complaining, “ugh, leftovers.” Meal planning is a lot of work, especially if you don’t want to waste a lot of food. I’ve found it tough to not buy a ton of stuff that I can’t use up in my next week’s worth of recipes. And leftovers, yea I’ve been eating a lot of those 🙂

Flank steak is good if you want red meat, but you don’t want a huge heavy steak. By slicing it up you can have just a little bit and still be satisfied.

Italian Flank Steak with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Recipe adapted from Family Spice

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBS basil, fresh, chopped
  • 3 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning, dried
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS Italian parsley,  chopped
  • 1  lb beef flank steak
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved & seeded

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together:
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 3 garlic cloves , crushed
    • 2 TBS Italian parsley , chopped
    • 1 TBS basil, fresh , chopped
  2. Pour this mixture into a large ziploc bag and add the flank steak:
  3. Place  in the refrigerator and let meat marinate 4-6 hours
  4. Remove meat 30 minutes prior to grilling.
  5. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  6. Preheat grill pan outside grill on high heat.
  7. In a small bowl whisk together:
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
    • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning , dried
  8. Half and seed your cheery tomatoes
  9. Pour your mixture over the tomatoes making sure it coats them evenly.
  10. Pour onto a baking sheet and roast in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
  12. Spray the grill with cooking spray before placing meat on it.
  13. Place steaks on hot grill and cook until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes for medium rare on each side.  Flank steak is best served medium-rare, as it can toughen if over-cooked.
  14. Cover steak with foil, and let steaks rest 5 minutes before serving.
  15. Prior to serving, slice the meat on a bias. Top with roasted tomatoes and serve hot.

Craft Room Metamorphosis, Continued

Since beginning my craft room makeover last summer, it has slowly and steadily continued to take shape.  After getting the room painted, I was able to sweet talk Todd into making me a myriad of woodworking treasures.  I featured his fine woodworking prowess in a pervious post.  But, to refresh your memory — he fashioned me a wonderful sewing/cutting table out of a 5-panel door.

Sewing/Cutting table out of 5-Panel Door

He created a coffee table and end table out of my grandmother’s vintage Lady Baltimore luggage.  Classy, no?

Lady Baltimore Luggage Table 2

After getting my serger, he quickly answered my spool storage issue by making me a spool rack from tongue-and-groove flooring.  Really, my craft room wouldn’t be much of anything without his help.

Serger thread spool rack, which now is hanging on the wall

The only thing I was left with, after all that, was figuring out how to organize the rest of my craft room “Krackatoa” — spinning paraphernalia, loads and loads of fabric, patterns, paints, sewing notions, etc.

First, I decided to tackle the sewing notions.  I had seen a friend use an IKEA bar and bucket system over her craft table and I really like the look.  I made a trip to IKEA with Deb and we were able to put the bar and buckets on lock down.  Todd helped me hang them over the craft table and in a matter of about an hour, I was already more organized! (Pay no attention to the painter’s tape marking where the shelves will go.)

IKEA bar system above my sewing table

While this did much to free up space on my sewing table, I quickly realized that I wasn’t finished wielding my feminine whiles.  I was in desperate need of more shelving!  After some additional pleading, Todd agreed to more mandatory woodworking fun.  He decided to start with the easier of the two areas for shelving – the closet.  Since he’d already created shelves for one of our other closets, he had a good idea of how to go about it.  My only stipulation was that he leave enough room at the bottom that I could store my sewing machine in it when my craft room morphs into our guest bedroom.  It literally took him no time at all before I had glorious, glorious shelves.  Can you hear the angels singing?

Shelves for my fabric storage

On the shelves, I decided to solve my fabric addiction quandary by creating my own little fabric store.  I cut foam core board into mini-bolts and placed all my fabric on them.  Now, I can see what fabric I have AND it’s easily accessible.  I can now store more fabric than ever!  Todd already thinks I have more fabric than I could ever possibly sew up in one lifetime.  What a naysayer.  Geesh.

My mini-bolt fabric storage system

My lovely organized closet!

Next up, was the more difficult job of creating shelves that would be placed over the sewing/cutting table.  After much brainstorming and sketching, we decided upon two long shelves, centered directly over the table.  The top one would be four inches narrower than the bottom.  Todd even designed a curved bracket for the shelves so that they’d look a little less industrial.

My shapely shelf brackets

After everything was assembled, we took them out to the back deck and gave them a few coats of white, glossy spray paint.  While it was quick, I don’t think I’d go with spray paint again.  It just doesn’t ever turn out as nice as when you paint by hand.  Then, they were ready for hanging.  We live in an old house with plaster walls.  And let me tell you, plaster it a bitch.  It doesn’t like to have its integrity compromised and if not careful, will answer your unwelcome advances by splintering and cracking .  This is probably one of the reasons that the decor on our walls hardly ever changes.  If it does, it usually involves placing pieces on already existing nails – regardless of whether that means something is centered.  What can you do?  Thankfully, Todd has now worked his way up to “plaster black belt” and knows how to hang just about anything in the stuff.  While I do not understand these jedi mind tricks, I do know that it involves fantastical items like “cams” and “mollybolts.”

So with the aid of his mollybolts, Todd and I (but, really I just held things) put the shelves up.

Up go the shelves

Toddley being a goof

And, then they were up!  They are utterly fantastic and now give me just enough space to have everything in my craft room organized.

The finished shelves

I have to pause a moment here to tell you about a special addition to my craft room.  I had been feeling a little sad about the fact that I have no bicycle representation in my craft room.  For those of you that know me well, bicycling is a huge part of my life (TakingTheWorldBySaddle.com).  So, DH talked to his brother, who made me the most special addition to my craft room EVER – a mini bike!  Trent is a metal artist.  I love it SO MUCH.  It makes me happy just looking at it.  So, it had to be the very first thing that I put on my new shelves.

My newest bicycle!

Everything in its place.

While we had the plaster-wrangling tools out, I also finally hung up my grandmother’s little antique shelves and added her pitcher collection to it.  It reminds me of playing “tea” when we were kids.

Grangi’s Pitcher Collection

I organized all of my patterns into the bottom drawers of my filing cabinet.  I need to make dividers for them.  But, it’s been a perfect storage solution for now.

My pattern collection

I also was so lucky to find this awesome ironing board/chair at an antique store near here.  It was only $45!  It’s an ironing board!  It’s a chair!  It’s a step stool!   (It folds up.)  Too cool.  So, one of my next sewing projects needs to be making a custom cover for this little baby.

It’s an ironing board!

Having a space that I can call my own for creating has drastically changed how often I craft.  Because I love my room, I spend as much time in it as possible.  Moral of the story:  if you’ve been thinking about a craft room makeover, do it!  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Do it.  You won’t be sorry!

Crazy Half-Marathon Carrot Cake

A few weeks ago, my friend, Gwen, and I headed to the outer banks to run a 1/2 marathon.  We were so excited to have found the race.  It was at the beach.  It would be warm and beautiful and flat.  What more could two girls ask for?  Let’s just say that none of those things turned out to be true in the Flying Pirate 2012 1/2 marathon.  It was not warm.  It was, in fact, very cold and windy.  It was not beautiful.  It was, in fact, driving rain.  And, it was not flat.  It was, in fact, hilly — and of course, those hills began at mile 9.  Who knew there could be so many dang hills on the Outer Banks?  Just to prove to you how bad it was, let me show you two pictures.  The first is what I imagined I would look like, except female.

How happy is this guy?

On the day of, with wind, rain, and pits of mud (and despair)….this is what I actually looked like.

Look away. I’m hideous.

As you can see, I was not a happy camper.  I still think that it was my rage that actually got me through the race.  I was SO angry.  So angry, in fact, that my time was actually not that far off my best 1/2 marathon time.  Nothing like a little cold rain and rage to motivate you to run your personal best.  So after checking the weather on Friday afternoon, I knew that we were going to need a delicious treat to come home to after the race.  What could fit the bill better than a carrot cake?  I mean it has vegetables in it.

Thankfully, my Grangi’s recipe box had just such a recipe!

The recipe.

Unfortunately, I think this recipe used to have another card with it because this one doesn’t list the steps.  So, I’ll be listing those as I go.  I also decided not to do the whipped cream frosting, in lieu of a traditional cream cream cheese frosting.  Here is my recipe for the cream cheese frosting:

8 oz. of cream cheese

1 c. of confectioner’s sugar

2 T of maple syrup

1 stick of butter

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Carrot cake ingredients

So first things first, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, I greased a 9-inch springform pan.  I only used spring form because it was the only thing I could find in the beach house.  (Normally, you would use two 9-inch pans so that you can cook both layers at one time – oh beach house!)  Then, I lined the bottom with wax paper and coated the bottom with flour, making sure to tap out any extra.

Prepped spring form pan, complete with floured wax paper

Next, I combined all the dry ingredients in one bowl and mixed them well with a fork.

Mix dry ingredients together

Then, beat the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl until well blended.

Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together.

I, then, added the flour mixture bit by bit and stirred until evenly blended.  Then, I added the grated carrot.

Add the flour and blend until smooth

I poured half of the batter into the pan and put it in the oven and baked it for roughly 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle came out smooth.  I repeated the process with the second layer.

Then, I was ready to make the icing.  I just combined all of the ingredients for the frosting and used a hand blender to mix them to the correct consistency.  Make sure you test it along the way for the appropriate amount of maple flavoring – delicious!

After my cake layers had sufficiently cooled, I did a crumb layer.

I stuck it in the fridge to let it firm up for about 15 minutes, and then finished icing it.  The last touch, was to sprinkle chopped pecans on the top.

Sprinkled chopped pecans on the top

I have a feeling that in the next five years, someone is going to release a study showing that carrot cake it the perfect post-race recovery food.  One slice of this baby and I was feeling better already!

A little slice of heaven!

Curried Chickpea Burgers with Home Fries

Both of my older sisters are vegetarians, which has lead me to not be a big meat eater myself. When I was in elementary school I remember loving hamburgers, but one day I bit down on a piece of gristle and was completely disgusted. Ever since then I won’t eat ground meat. There is just something about the consistency that freaks me out. The ironic part is I still like a good steak, but grind it up and NO THANKS. Irrational, yes. And now that pink slime and meat glue have been all over the food news I’m quite glad I do not eat ground meat, just saying.

At our work cafeteria they were offering curried chickpea burgers for awhile and I became obsessed. They were so good and filling and then don’t you know they stopped offering them. Those jerks! My no processed food challenge led me to try to make them for myself and the result was pretty good.  I’m going to experiment some more with this recipe.

Curried Chickpea Burgers

Total Time needed: 50 minutes  Yield 4 patties

  • 2 cans of canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 2 carrots (about 3/4 of a cup of baby carrots if you are lazy like me)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grind your oats in a food processor until fine. Then add chickpeas and carrots and stream in your olive oil while pulsing your food processor. You want the mixture to stick together so add a little more olive oil if it’s not doing that. Add in your spices and then pulse the food processor again to make sure they are incorporated.

Line a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Form 4 patties out of your mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the “burgers” and bake for another 20 minutes.

Now what did I decide to eat my chickpea burgers with? French fries of course. Except I made the healthy home fries that my Mom always made growing up. They are pretty easy and almost as tasty as their fried cousin.

Home Fries

4 Large Russet Potatoes

1/4 cup Olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Onion powder

1 teaspoon of Paprika

Preheat oven to 350. Wash your potatoes and cut them into small wedges. In a bowl combine your olive oil and spices. Toss the potatoes so that they are covered with the mixture. Add more spices if it doesn’t look like enough to you. Arrange the wedges on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa

I’m happy to report that no processed foods May is still going well. I’ve been cooking up a storm, which means I will have lots of good recipe posts upcoming.

Since Cinco de Mayo was on Saturday and I love Mexican food, tomatillo shrip tacos were on the menu. While I’m a little after the fact blogging about them, they were delicious so don’t wait for a Mexican holiday to make them! The tomatillo avocado salsa was really bright and refreshing with the shrimp.  Since I live in an apartment, I grilled the shrimp using my grill pan. It worked out fine, but my apartment definitely got a bit smokey. Fair warning. One day I will live somewhere that I’m allowed to have a grill! Definitely serve them with a margarita or two!

Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 3/4  avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Shrimp:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (about 20), peeled and deveined
  • 8  flour tortillas
  • 3 Bamboo skewers

Black Beans:

  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped and seeded
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp of lime juice
  • 8 sprigs cilantro for garnish
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Directions

Put the onion, jalapeno, and garlic in a food processor and finely chop. Add the tomatillos, avocado, and salt and pulse until chopped but still chunky. Add in the cilantro and pulse a couple of times. You don’t want this to get too chopped up.

Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high. Mix the olive oil, chipotle or chili powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Stack the shrimp on bamboo skewers to make grilling easier.  Grill the shrimp until translucent, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.

Chop your garlic, jalapeno and onion into pretty fine chunks. In a saucepan, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium high heat for a few minutes. Add your jalapeno, onion, and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the onion starts to break down. Meanwhile, drain and rinse your black beans. Add the black beans to your saucepan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes until warmed through. Add your cumin and lime juice and stir.

Place the flour tortillas on a plate and wrap with a damp paper towel. Microwave for about a minute.  To assemble tacos, add black beans to the tortilla, top with shrimp, sliced avocado and then spoon salsa on top.   Serve with a lime wedge and some fresh cilantro.

Homemade Cranberry Almond Granola

I love cereal, so I knew swearing off of packaged foods for a month would be tough because I would have to give up my beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. To satiate my cereal yearnings, I decided to try to make homemade granola. I was surprised at just how easy granola is to make and I chastised myself for not making it sooner! This is a recipe you can definitely play with and make your own.

Homemade Granola

2 cups of rolled oats

3 T of honey

2T of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 T of butter

1/2 cup of slivered almonds

1/4 cup of shelled sunflower seeds

1/3 cup of dried cranberries

Set your oven on low broil. Spread your oats out on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5-7 mins. Depending on your oven settings you’ll want to keep an eye on them. Your job is to lightly toast the oats, not to char them. Turn the oven off.

Meanwhile in a skillet, combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Stir until butter melts. Then add your toasted oats and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Then stir in your almonds and sunflower seeds and allow it to cook for a few minutes. Finally add your cranberries or other dried fruit.

Spread the mixture back onto your cookie sheet and put it back in your oven (make sure the oven is turned off). Doing this will continue to dry out your oats and make the granola crunchier. Let the mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes in the warm oven.

If you want the granola to stick together more in clusters, add some additional honey and butter. I wanted mine looser like cereal.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Buttercream

There are days (ok most days) where I daydream about  opening my own bakery. I hope one day in the future this dream becomes a reality. Two of my friend’s birthdays were last week so they had a joint celebration on Saturday night. I jump at any chance I can to bake and then give the delicious results away because I don’t need 20 cupcakes sitting in my house taunting me to eat them.  And that’s exactly what those sneaky cupcake bastards do. They taunt me to eat them.

I asked my friends what kind of cake they’d want and my friend Ramzi said chocolate and caramel and my friend Adam said he’d never met a kind of cake he didn’t like. My mind immediately went to chocolate salted caramel. I found a great blog, 20 Something Cupakes, that had a recipe that was adapted from Martha Stewart that sounded perfect. Side note: I’m not the biggest Martha fan after she came to speak at my company a few months ago and came across very stuck-up, but they looked delicious so why not?!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes


Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (made by taking 1 cup of milk and adding 1T of lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Salted Caramel Filling, recipe below

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined. The batter will appear a little runny, this is ok.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake. Eat these extra pieces 🙂 or throw them away. Make the salted caramel.

Salted Caramel

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. This process can take upwards of 10 minutes, so be patient. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more.

Use the leftover caramel for the frosting and reserve a little bit to drizzle over the top of the cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon  sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3  1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons leftover caramel sauce from above

Caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and not pourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Taste the frosting if it’s too salty, you can add a little more powdered sugar.

Use a pastry bag with an open-star tip and pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each by drizzling leftover caramel over the cupcake. I also garnished with a piece of salted caramel.   Store at room temperature in airtight containers.

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes.

The cupcakes turned out awesome.  Since the recipe calls for cocoa powder, the cake was just chocolatey enough without being overpowering. The salted caramel was deliciously salty and sweet and just oozes out of the cupcake when you bite into it. It’s a nice surprise for those not knowing it’s in the middle. The buttercream was also just the right combo of salty and sweet. I got a lot of rave reviews, which always make me know when a recipe is a keeper.

Homemade Berger Cookies (Baltimore’s Version of a Black & White)

I lived in Baltimore for four years and really did learn why it is known as Charm City. Don’t let The Wire lead you to believe that Baltimore is that horrible. Side note: The Wire is my favorite TV show and  if you haven’t seen it, add it to your Netflix cue now! Sure, there are some not so nice spots, but doesn’t every city have areas you’d rather not be in? Aside from crab cakes, Natty Boh, summer nights at Camden Yards, and runs around the Inner Harbor, my favorite Baltimore “icon” is the Berger cookie.

What is a Berger cookie you ask? Well, thy are the brain child of DeBaufre Bakeries (I’m guessing it’s not pronounced De Barf)  in Baltimore and are derived from an old German recipe. They are similar to a black & white cookie, except I think they are way better. The soft, cake like cookie is a carrier for a thick slab of delicious chocolate fudge icing. I have a few friends in Minneapolis who are from Maryland and knowing I love to bake they challenged me with making homemade Berger cookies. Challenge accepted.

I found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website that I used. When I was halfway through the recipe I noticed that they had a second recipe that they adapted using feedback from Baltimore natives.  I wish I would have seen that sooner! Regardless, the cookies turned out delicious. Were they as good as DeBaurfe’s version? No, but they were close. The main difference was the chocolate fudge frosting. This version is more bittersweet, whereas the original version is sweeter. I’ll attempt the adapted recipe another time and report back.  

Berger  Cookies

Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces)  butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
4 1/2 cups (19 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) milk

Rich Chocolate Icing
3 1/2 cups (21 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounce) light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

To make the cookies: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. Beat in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the wet ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there’s no need to beat the batter.

Using a muffin scoop or two spoons, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten each mound of dough to a circle about 1 ½” across; I used a  greased the bottom of a drinking glass to do this. Leave about an inch and a half between each cookie so they don’t bake together.

Bake the cookies for about 11 minutes, the edges of the cookie should just be starting to brown. These are supposed to be cake-like though so be sure to not over bake them. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

To make the icing: Put a little bit of water in a saucepan and then use a glass bowl on top as a double boiler. Place the chocolate chips, baking chocolate, corn syrup, butter, and cream into the glass bowl. Heat the mixture on medium high till it’s very hot and the chocolate has melted; the cream will start to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature; this will take at least a couple of hours, so plan accordingly. When completely cool, beat with an electric mixer for 6 to 7 minutes, until the icing lightens in color just a bit, and thickens just slightly.

Spread each cookie with a generous amount of frosting.  It may feel like you are putting a lot of frosting on the cookie, but that’s the way a Berger cookie should be! You’ll want to allow the frosting to set for awhile before storing or stacking the cookies. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 dozen 3 ½” cookies depending on how big you make them. I like a big cookie so I probably got closer to 2 dozen.

A Striped, Chambray Wiksten

It’s not long after you get really into sewing that you realize just how many patterns there are available online now.  Of course, there are the larger pattern suppliers, such as Burdastyle.com, but there are also a lot of individuals throwing their hats into the pattern ring.  While reading Made by Rae’s blog, I stumbled upon just such a pattern – the Wiksten Tank.

The Wiksten Tank - oh so cute and hipsterish (yes, that's a word).

It immediately captured my attention.  It had that hipster feel to it with it’s scoop neckline, small bust pocket, and curved hem.  I fell in love with it instantly.  And like a good, little ADDer, immediately moved it to the front of my queue.  And there it sat for a week while I did my research.  I have found, through knitting, that I save myself a lot of time and hardship if I read about others’  experiences with a particular pattern before attempting it myself.  Since this is a fairly popular pattern, there are lots and lots of cute Wiksten’s out there, let me tell you.  I didnt find out anything life-altering about the pattern.  Most people were really happy with it and had made very few changes.  I did, however, during this search find my heart captured by a new (to me) fabric I saw on the Make Something blog.

Paris Map Wiksten by MakeSomething

Oh, I just yearn for this.....Isn't it amazing? by MakeSomething

I LOVE this paris map fabric.  However, my love will most likely remain an unrequited one.  This gorgeous fabric has been discontinued.  WHY, cruel world!?!  If any of you know how to make a miracle happen…that would allow me to get my hands on two yards of this textile delight, do not pass go, do not collect $200…..just message me immediately!

So, the search continued.  The weekend before Easter, DH and I were doing a little antiquing in Woodstock, VA and we stumbled upon a fantastic antique mall/flea market.  There, I not only found 28 yards of varying striped jersey fabric for $0.30/yard (more on that soon!), but I also found some absolutely fabulous striped chambray for $4.  Can’t beat that.  I knew from the moment I saw it, that it would be my Wiksten fabric.

Striped Chambray - in two variations

So, the first step was to cut out all of the pieces.

Pattern pieces

From my measurements, I had determined that I was an extra large.  However, in retrospect, I think I was a large.  I had to do a lot of tailoring before it fit perfectly.  There must be an incredible amount of ease built into this pattern?  I also added two inches to the length, as I have a long torso and like shirts on the longish side.  After making this once, I think I would only add an inch.  I might go back and re-hem my tank.

I love the finished project!  It’s the perfect summer tank.

My striped, chambray Wiksten

Now, I just need to make a cute, red skirt to go with it to complete my spring/summer nautical look!  🙂  Now, accepting pattern suggestions!