And I’m Back…Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

So apparently the gauntlet has been thrown. I too apologize that I’ve been MIA for so long. Life got in the way and well, I got a little lazy. I promise I have lots of holiday baking in the works, so you can expect some good posts throughout the next few months. And while Jen’s hat was nice and all, it won’t fill your belly with happiness now will it?

A couple of months ago my middle sister was having a rough go of it. She’d just moved to a new city and was dealing with a deadbeat landlord and all the change a move can bring. I decided I was going to make a care package for her since I always love getting mail and love it even more when said mail is in present form. I figured it would make a crappy day or week seem a little bit better. The only problem is that due to my precious little niece’s milk allergy, my sister isn’t able to eat any dairy. This threw a wrench into my plan to bake something tasty for the care package.

After a few searches online I settled on some chocolate peanut butter brownies. I was a little apprehensive since the ingredient deck seemed a little odd, but they turned out great! You can’t really tell that there is no butter or flour…there’s just chocolately goodness.  And since there is no flour, these are gluten free as well. So go ahead, make some brownies and while you are at it, send a care package to someone to let them know you are thinking of them 🙂

Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

From About.com

For the Brownie Base:

  • 1 16-ounce jar smooth almond butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 cup dark dairy-free chocolate chips (try Whole Foods)

For the Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 4 T. dairy-free gluten-free soy margarine, such as Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9″x13″ baking dish and line with parchment paper

2.  In a large bowl, beat the almond butter until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each egg. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, beating until all ingredients are incorporated  In another small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Slowly add this mixture to the almond butter mixture, beating until just combined and smooth. Fold in the dairy-free chocolate chips using a spatula.

3. In another large mixing bowl, mix together the  soy margarine, powdered sugar, smooth peanut butter, salt, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour  brownie batter into the prepared pan. Drop dollops of the peanut butter filling onto the batter. With a knife, very carefully swirl the peanut butter filling into the brownie filling. This can be done by starting at one corner and slowly going down in a row and then over and up again.  Imagine making a big squiggly line across the pan. Don’t mix, just make a decorative swirl.

5. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow for the brownies to cool completely before trying to cut them.

My swirls weren’t so great!

Key Lime Pie Cake

I know it goes against girl code, but I don’t love chocolate. Some chocolate is ok, I just don’t crave it like some people. Given the choice between a chocolate or fruit dessert, I’ll always go for the fruit choice. I also tend to like cake more than pies. Cakes come with frosting, which I have a serious weakness for.

My friend and I hosted a University of Texas picnic last weekend. I signed up to make a dessert and wanted to make something summery since the weather here has been fantastic and we planned to grill on the back patio at our apartment complex. I came across a picture for this  Key Lime Pie Cake recipe during one of the many hours I spend on Pinterest and pinned it because I like tackling any cake recipe that has multiple components. The finished result was delicious. The curd is really nice a tangy and is offset nicely by a fluffy white cake. I didn’t love the frosting, but it was tasty. I think I might experiment with a regular buttercream if I make this cake again. The graham cracker crumbs are a nice addition and really do make the cake taste like a key lime pie. Everyone at the picnic was very impressed that I’d made the cake, which to me is the sign of a job well done.

Key Lime Pie Cake

 

This cake has several components and is best tackled a day ahead of serving it.

Key Lime Curd

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 limes
1/2 cup Key Lime juice
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Directions

Add all ingredients except butter to a saucepan over Low heat. Whisk to combine. Add butter. Continue whisking gently but constantly, heating slowly, until curd thickens and reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat.

For the smoothest curd, pour through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate overnight before use. Curd keeps up to 1 week in the fridge.

Lime Scented White Cake

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 2 9-inch cakes

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk ( you can make buttermilk substitute using milk and lemon juice)
4 large egg whites
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of 1 lime
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray.

Whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, measure out buttermilk, then whisk in egg whites and lime juice.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and zest on low until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating dry and wet ingredients (ending with dry ingredients), beating just to incorporate each new addition. Once all ingredients are added, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to aerate the batter.

Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Can be made ahead. If making ahead, wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and place in a zip top bag. Can be stored at room temperature for a day, or frozen for several weeks.

Graham Cracker Crumble

Ingredients

6 graham crackers
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat over to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Break graham crackers into quarters and pulse in a food processor until reduced to fine crumbs. Add salt and brown sugar. With processor running, pour in melted butter. Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.

Dump mixture onto prepared pan and press mixture firmly to form a flat ‘crust’. Bake at 350°F for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and crumble into pieces with a fork. Return to oven and bake 2 more minutes. Cool completely. Can be made ahead and stored in an air-tight zip top bag until needed.

Lime Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Makes about 5 cups, or enough to frost a 9-inch layer cake

Ingredients

6 large fresh egg whites
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-Tablespoon cubes
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon key lime juice
lime zest
Pinch of salt

Directions

Fill medium saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add egg whites and sugar to the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture reads 140°F on an instant read thermometer.

Attach bowl to stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until a glossy white meringue with stiff peaks forms and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch (about 10-15 minutes). Switch to the paddle attachment. Beating on medium-low speed, add butter one piece at a time, letting each piece incorporate before adding the next. Once all butter is incorporated, scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Continue beating for 10-15 minutes until smooth.

Once smooth, add vanilla, lime juice, salt and zest. Beat until smooth.

(If at any point your buttercream looks curdled or soupy – don’t panic ! If it looks curdled, just keep beating. It will come together. If you’ve been beating it for 15 minutes and it’s still soupy, pop the whole bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes, then continue beating. Repeat as much as necessary until you get a smooth buttercream.)

To Assemble:
Place one layer of the cake on a cake pedestal or serving platter. Top with half of the key lime curd. Don’t spread the curd all the way to the edge of the cake. Using a pastry bag, pipe swirls around the entire bottom layer. This will keep your curd in place and make frosting the cake a lot easier. Place the next layer of cake on top. Frost the edges of the cake with your buttercream. Don’t frost the top of your cake. Add the rest of the lime curd to the top of the cake. Using your pastry bag, pipe swirls or rosets around the edge of the cake.  Place your cake pedestal on a cookie sheet or piece of parchment paper. Using your hands, push handfuls of your graham cracker crumbs along the outside of the cake. I had enough extra frosting that I piped swirls around the bottom of the cake as well. To garnish the top of the cake take a lime slice and cut through half of it to twist it. Place on top of cake. Wow your friends 🙂

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

There are just some things that are meant to go together…lemon and raspberry are two flavors that I just love together. When I was in business school, me and four of my girlfriends decided to take our holiday break and explore New Zealand and Australia together for five weeks. Leading up to our trip we had several dinners where we’d eat, drink too many glasses of wine and plan the trip. I’d come across a cake posting on Tastespotting that looked ridiculously good, so I decided for our next Australia dinner I’d make it. I found the original recipe here. It was a blueberry lemon cake, but I decided I’d sub in raspberries since I like those flavors together better. The result was so good my friends deemed it the facegasm cake. It’s become our go to treat when we get together now. While we are all spread out across the country now, we’ve done a good job this first year out of business school getting together every few months. Since I live in what is normally the frozen tundra, I knew that they needed to come visit me in the summer or I would never get them here.

A few weekends ago they all made it to Minneapolis. We had reason to celebrate as two of my friends were celebrating birthdays. I decided that we needed a cake and some cupcakes for the occasion. I wasn’t sure if the Lemon Raspberry cake would translate well into cupcakes or not, but I gave it a try.  I halved the recipe since I had also made a cake, so that’s why some of the measurements seem a little unconventional. The result was just as good as the regular cake with built in portion control. Facegasms were had all around 🙂

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

Ingredients

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1  cup fresh raspberries

1/8 cup sour cream

1/8 cup  milk (I use skim)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/6 teaspoon pure lemon extract (just fill 1/3 tsp half full)

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup (1/2  stick) unsalted butter, softened about 20 minutes out of refrigerator

6 tablespoons of white sugar

1 large eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to larger bowl. Add fresh raspberries and toss to coat them with flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.

Stir milk, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest in small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, until pale yellow and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well combined. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide batter equally cupcake pan.

Bake  until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Cool in pans on racks for about 10 minutes, then take the cakes out and cool on wire rack.

Zesty Lemon Frosting

Ingredients

1/2 cup soft unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 1/2 cups icing sugar (or 3 for  sweeter version)

23 ml fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons whipping cream (35% cream)

1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract

pinch salt

1 drop of yellow food coloring

Directions

Cream butter and lemon zest in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Slowly add icing sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. If using food coloring add a drop or two, then beat until blended.

Lemon Curd 

3 large egg yolks, strained

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth.
  3. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour.

To assemble:
Cut out a round circle from each cupcake. Save the piece you cut out. Add about a tbsp of lemon curd and replace with the piece of cake you cut out. Using a pastry bag, pipe a generous swirl of lemon frosting on top of the cupcake. Top with a raspberry.

Luscious lemon curd

Seared Scallops over Cauliflower Puree with Wilted Spinach and Roasted Asparagus

I’m a pretty competitive person, I freely admit it. This causes me to make bets with people quite often. I had some pictures that I wanted the guy I’ve been dating to help me hang up in my living room. He told me we’d need picture wire. I live pretty close to a CVS and he suggested we just run to CVS and pick up some. Not so fast my friend, CVS isn’t going to have picture wire I told him. He persisted that he thought they would. To which I replied, “wanna make a bet?” Hands were shook and off to CVS we went. Along the way we determined that the payoff would be whoever lost had to cook dinner for the other person. I was fully prepared to bask in winner’s glory. When we got to CVS he walked straight to the home section and plucked a box containing picture wire off the rack. I was flummoxed. Who knew drugstores carried picture wire? He later told me smugly that he would have bet me $5 million dollars he was so sure. Punk. Alas, my pictures were hung and I made him a very tasty dinner to settle our bet.

 

Seared Scallops over Cauliflower Puree with Wilted Spinach and Roasted Asparagus

Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower (about 3 lbs.), cut into florets

2 Yukon gold potatoes (about 8 ounces), peeled and diced

kosher salt and fresh pepper

1/2 cup of butter

1/2-1 cup of half and half or fresh cream

Directions

Set up a collapsible steamer over a pot of water. Toss the cauliflower and potato and put in the steamer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and steam the potatoes and cauliflower until completely tender, about 15 minutes stove top. Cool slightly. Puree the vegetables using a blender or food processor, in batches if needed,  with butter and a couple tablespoons of cream, until smooth and creamy. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Meanwhile, cook 4 strips of bacon in the mircrowave, for about 4 minutes until the bacon is crispy. Chop up into small pieces and reserve.  Save your bacon drippings for your spinach.

Roasted Asparagus

1 lb. of asparagus

salt and pepper

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the bottom ends of the asparagus and give them a good wash.

2. Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the spears, roll the asparagus back and forth until they are all covered with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Roll the asparagus around so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

3. Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice before serving.

Seared Scallops

1. Since I live in the midwest, fresh scallops are hard to come by. Most of the ones found in the grocery stores have been frozen before and are soaked in a liquid that keeps them looking white.  They need to be rinsed thoroughly  and patted dry.   Season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter to the pan.

3. Add your scallops, making sure not to crowd the pan, which lowers the pan’s temperature.

4. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until they have a golden caramelized color. Be careful not to overcook them because once you take them off the heat they will continue to cook.

Wilted Spinach

Add your leftover bacon grease,from cooking the bacon earlier, to a pan over medium heat. Add in a bunch of spinach and season with salt and pepper. Once the spinach wilts, take off the heat.

 

To assemble: 

Add a generous portion of cauliflower puree on the plate. Top with wilted spinach and asparagus. Then add your seared scallops. Garnish by sprinkling your chopped bacon over the top. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanimo Bars

A few years ago my friend Liza was moving to Vancouver and we decided to have a Canadian themed going away party. I love a good theme party, so I took the opportunity to go all out. I dressed up as a Mountie and  tried to find some Canadian themed recipes. I stumbled upon Nanimo bars in the search for a Canadian dessert. They are a delicious combo of a lot of tasty items. The bottom layer is a chocolatey, coconut, nutty, graham cracker combo. The middle layer is vanilla custard and the top layer is more chocolate. What’s not to like? July 1st was Canada Day and I happen to be dating a Canadian so I decided to make the Nanimo bars again. He happens to be allergic to walnuts which has kept him from ever being able to try Nanimo bars in the past, so I substituted in almonds. The result was just as tasty! So go ahead, give ’em a try, eh?

Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup sweetened or unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)

1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped

Middle Layer:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 – 3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons  vanilla pudding powder

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer:

4 ounces  semisweet chocolate

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Butter or spray a 9×9 pan.

Bottom Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Middle Layer: In your mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture appears to thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Top Layer: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Then, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has set. Using a sharp knife, cut into squares.

Yield: Makes about 25 squares. Preparation time 45 minutes.


Strawberry Proscecco Tiramisu

Ah summer, there are so many things I love about you. Long days, sunny walks around the lake, corn on the cob, peach cobbler, cookouts, 1/2 day Fridays at work…this list could go on and on. One of my friends had an international themed cookout recently and I knew that I wanted to try to make this strawberry prosecco tiramisu recipe that I came across recently. My old roommate Kalin was a nanny in Italy for a summer and she introduced me to raspberry tiramisu, my first non-coffee version of tiramisu. I think as long as there are lady fingers and mascarpone cheese you can call it tiramisu. This was a nice summary alternative to a trifle. Plus, it only uses 1 1/2 cups of prosecco so it leaves plenty leftover for you to drink while you cook 🙂

Strawberry Prosecco Tiramisu

Recipe courtesy of Kosher Eye

Ingredients:

2 cups (about 1 lb) mascarpone
1/2 pint whipping cream (makes about 1 1/2 cups whipped)
4 eggs
26 Italian ladyfingers
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 1/2 lb strawberries
1 1/2 cups Prosecco or champagne

Directions:

In your blender or food processor, puree 1/3 of the strawberries with the wine or juice until smooth. Set aside in a small and shallow bowl.

Using an electric whisk, or in your food processor, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. When they become frothy, add the mascarpone; process until combined and set aside.

In a perfectly clean bowl (you can wipe it quickly with a few drops of lemon or vinegar to make sure it’s degreased) beat the egg whites (which should be clear, with no traces of yolk) with an electric whisk until they start forming soft peaks.

Gently fold the whites into the mascarpone cream with a spatula, using an upward motion. Whip the whipped cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream to the mascarpone as well. Divide the mixture in half. Chop 1/2 of the remaining strawberries and add them to half of the mixture. Also add enough strawberry/wine juice to make it pink.

Dip each ladyfinger into the remaining strawberry/wine mix for 5 to 8 seconds, flipping them a couple of times (letting the cookies soak too long will cause them to fall apart). Arrange the soaked ladyfingers on the bottom of a glass or pyrex 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or two smaller square or round pans). Spread the pink half of the mascarpone mixture on top. Make a second layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with the white mascarpone mixture.

Slice the remaining strawberries and use them to decorate. If you want to get fancy you  can also add some fresh mint leaves and meringues. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

My friend Julia celebrated her birthday recently and I took the opportunity to bake some cupcakes for the occasion. She told me she liked anything chocolate. When I went to the grocery store the strawberries were 2 for $4 so I decided to incorporate a strawberry filling into the cupcakes I was planning.

For those of you who know me, you know it’s my dream to open my own bakery one day.  I love everything about baking. The preciseness, the artistry, and the tasty finished products. A couple of my new friends in Minneapolis upon tasting these cupcakes told me they’d be seed investors in my bakery. I’d have to agree, they turned out pretty damn tasty. Anyone else out there looking to invest in a bakery? 🙂

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk (you could use whole of 2% too)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Directions:
1. Line muffin tin with paper liners.  Heat oven to 350*F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for one minute.
4. Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don’t worry, this is right).
5. Fill liners 2/3 full with batter.  (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and then pour the batter into the liners.)
6. Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.
7. Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 7 tablespoons chopped/processed strawberries
    1. Chop strawberries in food processor just until they look thick and saucelike. I used really large strawberries and it took 7 to make 7 Tablespoons.
    2. Beat whipping cream, and vanilla until it starts to thicken.
    3. Mix in sugar.
    4. Fold in strawberries.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and mix for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the heavy cream, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. I used 3 tablespoons, but you can add more if needed.
  5. Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  6. Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

14 medium/small  strawberries

Melt your chocolate chips over a double boiler. Dip your strawberries in the chocolate to cover 3/4ths of the berry. Place on parchment paper and allow chocolate to harden for at least 15 minutes.

To assemble the cupcakes:

1. Once your cupcakes are cooled, cut a small portion out of the top of each cupcake (you’ll want to save this extra cake).

2. Put about 2 tablespoons of your strawberry filling in the top of the cupcakes and replace with the cake you cut out.

3. Using a pasty bag, pipe your frosting onto each cupcake.

4. Top with sliced strawberry or chocolate covered strawberry.

Cupcakes pre-frosting

 

I ran out of the cream cheese frosting (probably because I like a lot of frosting), so I frosted some of the cupcakes with the strawberry whipped cream  mixture and drizzled the extra chocolate from the chocolate covered strawberries on top.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

My No Processed Foods challenge led me to try to make things that I usually just reach for a jar or can of in my pantry. My Dad has always made his own pasta sauce, so I figured I should try making some too! It was actually really easy and it made enough that I had leftovers for the week. The beauty of a good red sauce is that you should make it your own. Do you like it a little spicy? Add a little more red pepper flakes. Really like garlic? Throw another clove in.

Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flake, or to taste
  • 1 28 oz. cans crushed tomato
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once you see the oil shimmering, add the chopped onion and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and pinch of red pepper flake then continue to sauté until onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add crushed tomato, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, a few pinches of kosher salt and several turns of freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine. I also like to fill the empty can of tomato paste with water then add that to the sauce (6 oz.). Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low then simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (1.5 to 2 hours is best if you have the time).
  3. To finish the sauce, stir in a handful of chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta.

I chose to serve the sauce of pappardelle pasta and added some chicken sausage and a nice handful of Parmesan cheese.

And of course a fat slice of my Homemade Italian bread. 🙂

Quinoa Salad with Pears, Almonds, Cranberries and Spinach

Have you tried Quinoa yet? No? What are you waiting for!? This ancient grain packs some serious protein, is easy to make, and is very tasty. Quinoa provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s also gluten-free, and cholestorl free, and is almost always organic.  I’ve been making it on Sundays and then packing it in a couple of Tupperware  containers and then presto, easy lunches for the week. You can get really creative with quinoa and throw in whatever you have in your pantry or refrigerator. It’s really your blank canvas to make into whatever you’d like.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic quinoa
Sea salt
2 good handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
1 large ripe pear, washed, stemmed and cored, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the Maple Vinaigrette Dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Place the quinoa in a saucepan or a rice cooker. Add 2 cups fresh water, and a pinch of sea salt. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and dump it into a large salad bowl.

Add the baby spinach, pear, cranberries, and almonds  to the quinoa and fluff.

Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Season to taste with a little bit of salt.

Homemade Italian Bread

I was intrigued by how many people were shocked that I made my own bread during No Processed Foods month. People just couldn’t get over that you can actually make bread. I think people are just scared to try making bread and I don’t know why. Sure, I’ve had to learn how to get yeast to work for you by trial and error,but it’s really not that hard. The key is using really warm water and giving it time to rise. If you’ve never tried to make bread before, this Italian bread recipe is a good starter recipe.

I love my food processor. It makes doing so many things in the kitchen easier: chopping veggies, shredding cheese, etc. The dough attachment it comes with is also great for kneading bread. Why do all that hard work when your food processor can do it for you? This is a recipe my Mom made growing up and my family loves it. No Italian dinner is complete without my Mom’s Italian bread. In our family we also love to eat it as a “dessert” with her homemade jam or applesauce on it too.

 

Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 package yeast

1 cup very warm water

vegetable oil and corn meal

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cold water

Directions:

1. Place 2 cups of flour, salt, sugar, butter and yeast in food processor bowl. Using the dough attachment, turn the machine on and off until the butter is thoroughly cut in.

2. Add half of the water and turn the processor on and off 4 times.

3. Add your remaining cup of flour and water. Repeat on/off 4 times, then let the processor run until a ball of dough forms. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

4. When you get the right consistency, let the processor run for 40 to 60 seconds to knead the dough.

5. Place the dough on the counter, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

6. Flour your surface and using a rolling pin, roll dough out in a rectangle 10×15 inches. Then roll the dough into a long loaf, pinching the seams to close them.

7. Place on a greased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Brush your loaf with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Be sure to cover well or your bread will dry out.

8. When read to bake, uncover the dough and let it sit on counter for 10 minutes. Cut diagonal slashes in the top.

9. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

10. Remove from over and brush with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. This will given it a beautiful golden crust.

11. Return to over for 5 to 10 minutes.

Prior to serving let it sit for at least 10 minutes and it will slice better.