Friday, May 31, 2013

Yellow Cupcakes and a Classic Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

The last two cupcakes...
Birthday Party! I made some yellow cupcakes and a chocolate butter cream frosting.

The cupcakes were dense, similar to a pound cake. I would use that for a short cake type of cupcake, but not for a frosted type cake... Because these cupcakes were so dense they did not rise a lot, so fill them 3/4 of the way.

However, since I made coffee cake with the sour cream, I think that I mixed the sour cream in too soon/over mixed the batter. The coffee cake was very light and fluffy, so I feel that the cupcakes should have been as well. Anyone want to be a taster for me for my next batch?

The chocolate butter cream was delish! However make sure the butter is softened and been at room temperature for at least an hour. Otherwise the butter pieces will stay chunky and the frosting won't be as smooth.

Perfect Yellow Cupcakes
(adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner )
makes 12 regular size cupcakes or 24 mini + 3 regular

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup standard sized cupcake tin with paper liners.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix until smooth and no clumps of flour are visible.

Evenly divide the batter among the cups in your prepared pan. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
Adapted from
Makes 3 cups
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) 
3 - 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer.

In separate bowl combine powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.

Note: If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chicken Piccata

Are you ready for some restaurant style chicken piccata? In less than 30 minutes couldn't believe that I made!  I read a bunch of recipes to determine how I would go about creating this dish.  I looked at Giada de Laurentiis's recipe and this blog.  

This tasted just like from the restaurant and was very straightforward to make.  This will be added to the regular meal rotations, as these are regularly stocked ingredients.

I tried to butterfly the chicken breast, but it wouldn't cut evenly. We had several smaller pieces that I tried to make flatter, but I didn't really understand what I was doing... Next time I will be patient and cut the chicken right. The flour parmesean breading was tasty and was nicely golden once I added in more oil. Before I added more oil the chicken was cooking but not getting any color or looking very moist.

I wanted to have some sort of green vegetable in the dish so I tossed in some arugula leaves at the very end so it would wilt.  This part took maybe 2-3 minutes as leafy greens can overcook very quickly.

I was reviewing recipes and they recommend using either a white wine sauce or chicken broth for making the lemon sauce.  Originally, I was going to use the chicken stock, but at the last minute, I went for the white wine sauce.  It was a great choice!

orig from 5/30/2013
updated 4/3/2015

Chicken Piccata
Serves 2

~2 cups dried pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup flour
Fresh cracked pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
3 Tbsp lemon juice (or a w hole lemon if you want)
1/4 cup brined capers


Start to boil the water for the pasta. Cook pasta according to directions.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally. Pound flat or butterfly them to about 1/4-inch thickness. 
Mix together the flour, pepper, and grated Parmesan. 
Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture, until well coated.
Add the chicken pieces, brown well on each side, about 3 - 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to a plate. 

Add the white wine, lemon juice, and capers to the frying pan used for the chicken. 
Reduce the sauce, generally I let it cook until the pasta is done.
Melt in the butter, wilt arugula/spinach. 
Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Plate the pasta and add chicken on the top!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spicy Cashew Stir Fry (Chicken, Tofu, or Tempeh)

Basic stir fry and not as spicy as I had hoped. Stir fry is a great way to use up lots of left over ingredients and will also cook really fast.

Next time I would include extra spice such as a Thai chili pepper. I also marinated tempeh in soy sauce while I was chopping the veggies. I put the Tempeh in the frying pan with the last 5-10 minutes to heat up and cook through. Firm tofu would have also been a good substitute as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Homemade Ice Cream!

Summery ice cream recipes to try! We have a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker which will make ice cream in about 20 minutes.

We have tried different types of milk (coconut, almond, etc), but you really can't compare to the creaminess that heavy cream will bring to the ice cream. The other types of milk will create an icy ice cream.

You can use either heavy cream or whipping cream. Whipping cream is a bit lighter and creates a fluffier texture. You can also use less cream when using whipping cream.

2 cups of milk + heavy cream yields 2 pretty large sized servings for 2 adults. The ice cream is also richer than you would get at most ice cream places.

Combine ingredients then put into the ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until thickened to the right consistency.
Espresso Ice Cream
2 shots espresso
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 sugar (Stevia)

- Combine all ingredients and chill for about an hour

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
A smidge under 1/4 cup sugar (Stevia)
1/4 - 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 - 2 graham crackers (broken up, optional)

- This one reminds me of a Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie!

Graham Central Station (adapted from Bruster's Ice Cream)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (Stevia)
1/4 light brown sugar
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (pulse in food processor)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks / chocolate chips

Strawberry Ice Cream
1 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Strawberries, pureed/chopped small
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (Stevia)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Easiest Flour Tortillas

I wanted to make some tortillas to go along with my salsa poached chicken and cilantro lime rice. I found the tortilla recipe here.

This took about 10 minutes to make the dough and another 20 minutes to make all the tortillas. While they were cooking I assembled the rice and the chicken. Very easy and worth making fresh. These also heat up well if you make them the day before.

The only thing that I changed was swapping butter instead of lard or shortening.


Update 4/2/2014: Let dough rest 20-40 minutes before dividing and rolling out. The dough will roll easier after resting.

Dough ball

I made a half batch, each ball is a little
smaller than a lime

Salsa Poached Chicken, Cilantro Rice,
Homemade Yogurt, and Fresh Tortillas

Flour Tortillas

Makes 24

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder         
6 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups water

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and butter in a food processor. Pulse until the dough starts to look crumbly. Slowly add the water and mix until the dough comes together; Knead a few turns until dough comes together looks smooth and elastic.

Let dough rest 20-40 minutes.

Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces (break in half, break each of those halves into half, etc) and roll each piece into a ball.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla. Place into the hot skillet, and cook until starting to get big bubbles (think pancakes) and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Place the cooked tortilla in a towel to keep warm; continue rolling and cooking the remaining dough.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Salsa Poached Chicken

I was looking for a new chicken dish to go along with the leftover rice, limes, cilantro, etc. I was inspired by the Salsa Poached Chicken recipe from here.

This took about 15 minutes to cook as I had sliced the meat up prior to poaching. I think next time I would use a similar technique... but saute the chicken in the pan with the salsa to see if it still brings all the taste with even less time. But poaching it in the salsa had great flavor for such a short cooking time.

I did add in some lime to the salsa while cooking the chicken to try and help tie the meal together.

I served the chicken with cilantro lime rice, homemade yogurt, and fresh tortillas.


Salsa Poached Chicken
Serves 4-6

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup chopped onion
Add chopped onions to a pot with a lid with about 1 tbl olive oil until slightly opaque. Add the salsa, chicken breasts, and water to cover the chicken, place lid on pot.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 min or until chicken is cooked.

Remove chicken from pot and set on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. With two forks, shred the chicken breast and place shredded chicken breast into the pot with the fresh salsa mixture.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cilantro Lime Pesto

Cilantro is going bad! What uses up lots of fresh herbs? Why pesto of course! This recipe is from The Washington Post and is a great starting point pesto ideas. The recipe below omits any cheese and the arugula, but I think they would both be great additions for next time I attempt this recipe.

How do you serve pesto? 
Pasta: One night we served it over this new quinoa pasta we wanted to try. The pasta was good and tasted like regular pasta, but when I read the ingredients label it didn't really seem much better than regular pasta. But I didn't look to far into it - it tasted yummy! Add about 1/2 cup for 1 lb of quinoa pasta. 
Rice: Another night we served it combined with left over white rice. Heat rice in a skillet over medium with a little olive oil (1 tbsp) and some water (2 tbsp). Once rice is softened and back to its sticky consistency, add the pesto and stir until pesto is mixed in and rice is hot. The rice was served with homemade tortillas and salsa poached chicken.

You may be wondering about the paprika, I included it but I didn't really taste it. Next time I would add more or omit it to see if I notice a difference.


Pasta with Pesto

Cilantro Lime Rice
Cilantro PestoMakes about 1 cup

1/3 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic, to taste
1 large bunch cilantro, roots and larger stems trimmed, washed and thoroughly dried
Squeeze of ½ lime
¼-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
 ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add cilantro and lime, and pulverize. Add oil, going gradually; stop machine and taste for herb/oil ratio. Add more if it feels “dry.”

Scrape down sides of bowl as needed, and transfer pesto to a small mixing bowl. Season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, if using.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spicy Cilantro and Lime Chicken

Lots of limes and cilantro to get through before they go bad! Here was a very spicy chicken dish served over white rice.

I added in a Thai chili pepper, which added too much heat for me! So I omitted it from the recipe below.

No veg was served that night, but a side of roasted asparagus would have been great!


Spicy Cilantro and Lime Chicken  
Serves 2-4

¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp dried thyme      
¼ tsp dried parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (butterflied and cut half)
1 tbsp olive oil 
¼ c diced onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ lime juice
¼  c fresh cilantro, chopped
½ tbsp butter

In a small bowl, mix together all the spices listed above, everything from the salt to the parsley. Sprinkle spice mixture generously on both sides of chicken breasts. If the breasts are thick, butterfly them or pound them thinner.

Heat large frying pan with some oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and pepper with the lime juice until onion is translucent. Add chicken and cilantro, put a few bits of the butter around the chicken as it cooks. Let it cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

Occasionally squeeze the rest of the lime over the chicken while it is cooking. I check the chicken by slicing the chicken in the thickest part of the breast make sure it is cooked through.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Chip, Lemon, and Regular
Coconut Macaroons
Here is a fast and easy dessert! It is naturally gluten free. You could make it dairy free with different chocolate chips or omitting them. It could be vegan if you substitute the egg whites too.  

I looked at many recipes trying to see what the best recipe would be. Some recipes called for 1 cup of sugar, but others said 1/4 cup of honey. I opted to try the honey version. These were sticky sweet just as expected! I'll make them with honey again in the future.

I made them in the mini muffin pan because I thought they would look cute. They do stick so next time I would line the muffin tins with the papers. If you don't read this and they do stick, I used a plastic spoon to scoop around each. You can also make them with rounded spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake them as usual however, the cooking time may need to be adjusted by a few minutes.

This was a tasty basic recipe which can be easily adapted. I made some with lemon zest and a couple with chocolate chips to try it out. I think adding in sliced almonds on top or swapping in different citrus zests would be good too.


Coconut Macaroons
Makes 15-20 cookies (in a mini muffin pan)
2 cups (un)sweetened shredded organic coconut
1/4 cup local organic honey* or organic Grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1/3 cup chocolate chips or 1 tbsp lemon / lime / orange zest (optional)
2 large local egg whites
Pinch of salt
Sliced almonds for sprinkling on the top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or line muffin tin with liners or spray muffin tin with non stick spray (these will stick!)

In a medium bowl mix together everything except the egg whites and salt, making sure the coconut is evenly coated with the honey (or maple syrup).

Using the mixer beat the egg whites with a small pinch of salt approx 2-3 minutes until stiff peaks form when you lift the mixer out.

Gently fold the coconut mixture into the eggs, being careful not to totally destroy the lovely beaten eggs. Let sit in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Drop batter onto the lined baking sheet, one rounded tablespoonful at a time.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the tops are turning a light golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to continue cooling completely.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Avocado, Tomato, & Bean Salsa

Refreshing summer snack? Looking for  a light side dish? Inspired from Wegman's recipes, this is a quick appetizer to toss together.

The recipe calls for grilled corn, but I don't have a grill and I didn't have any corn...but I did have a can of beans in the closet!

I also don't like tomatoes a lot so I only used a handful of cherry tomatoes. 

This may have taken about 10 minutes to chop and assemble. It also can be mostly be made ahead of time - minus the avocado.

Served it on some blue corn chips!


Avocado, Tomato, & Bean Salsa

1 can of chick peas / cannellini beans or corn
2  green onions, sliced
1 Tbsp  Wegmans Basting Oil
1/4 cup red onion, diced 
1  ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, diced
a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered
Juice (and zest, optional) of 1 fresh lime
1/4 cup Wegmans Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients!

Optional, let it chill for 30 minutes prior to eating.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Citrus Bow Tie Pasta

Warm weather is upon us! This is a light and fresh meal that takes only as long as the pasta takes to cook!

While the pasta is cooking you can slice and chop up the rest of the ingredients. When the pasta is done toss it all together, and dinner is ready!

What did I change? Overall I kept with the main recipe, I just made changes to my preferences. I sliced a couple cherry tomatoes since I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes. Since we had cilantro from other recipes, I used some more of that. Parsley is also an option however. You can swap the lemon juice for lime juice as well. I didn't mix the feta into the entire bowl since I'm not a fan, but it was pretty sprinkled on top of the food.

This is great served warm or cold. This will be ok for leftovers the next day, but won't last much longer than that. Once the avocado is turning brown - toss it!

Next time I might try using sundried tomatoes instead of fresh or even try some basil and fresh mozzarella!

Citrus Bow Tie Pasta
recipe adapted from Whole Foods
Serves 2

1/2 pound bow tie pasta
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed  
4 green onions, both green and white parts, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
a couple diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, but do not rinse the pasta. Place hot pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add avocado, green onions, feta, tomatoes and cilantro. Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil and drizzle over the warm pasta. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or cold.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Bites

Eggplant! One of my favorite veggies, but it can be cooked so horribly wrong. I also was curious about baking it instead of frying the pieces up.

Verdict? Baking / Roasting the eggplant was great! However, it was very pale and didn't look very appetizing. Next time I will sprinkle some olive oil over the top to see if that helps to make it look more golden.

I like the Panko breadcrumbs because they are bigger and flakier, the spices in the mix were just to taste, about a tsp of each. I sprinkled the minced garlic over the top of the breaded eggplant prior to roasting it. You can use a tsp or so of garlic powder mixed in the breadcrumbs as an option too.

It also could be topped with a slice of tomato or some tomato sauce and then some fresh mozzerella cheese and some basil for an appetizer... Anyone want to come over for dinner so I have an excuse to make some?

Roasted eggplant served with a side of pasta

Roasted Breaded Eggplant Bites
1 egg plant, med size
1 egg
Panko bread crumbs (1-2 cups?)
Red pepper flakes (1 tsp)
Oregano (1 tsp) or Italian seasoning
Garlic, minced or powdered

Slice eggplant about 1/4 inch thick.  No I have never measured this.
Liberally sprinkle salt on the eggplant and let it sit in a strainer in the sink for about 30 minutes. Rinse.

Preheat oven to 400F
In one bowl scramble an egg and with a splash of water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic.
Dip eggplant in the egg, let it excess egg drip off.  Dip in breadcrumb mix and then place on cookie sheet.
Put in oven for 15-20 minutes.

Remove and top with sauce and cheese and a side of pasta! Or just eat it right off the tray!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe in a cookie cook book when I was in high school. It was on sale at Barnes and Noble! In the book they are called Chocolate Fudge Brownies, but I think they are more on the cookie side then the brownie side. And if you are expecting a brownie - you will be disappointed.

Personally, I don't like these cookies very much because I'm not a big fan of chocolate. However, they are the first to go when I bring them to a party and everyone always asks for the recipe. So I'd say try them if you like chocolate!

These cookies freeze well and it is easy to make a big batch of them. You can space about 15 of the cookies per cookie sheet as they do not spread out too much on the pan.

Also see the recipe for Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie and my Mom's favorite white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies!
Triple Chocolate Cookies 
Adapted from Cookies by Pamela Clark
Makes 4-6 dozen depending on cookie size

2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts, optional)
2/3 cup each coarsely chopped of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F, line cookie sheets with parchment paper or use your silpat mat.
Using paddle attachment on your mixer beat butter, vanilla, sugars, and egg until light and fluffy.
In small bowl combine flour, cocoa, and baking soada.
Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
Add in nuts and chocolate bits.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Swirly Coffee Cake with Greek Yogurt

Here is a coffee cake that you will just adore! It is almost dense enough to be considered pound cake. One of the best parts of this recipe is you can make it ahead of time. A great coffee cake for breakfast or brunch. Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, thanks for another great recipe!

I have tried this recipe before and the dough smelled wonderful! However, I didn't have the proper pan. Using the right pan actually does make a difference. I had used a glass 9x9 baking pan, but the cake is so dense that the middle did not cook in time for the edges to not dry out.

I did make some changes to the recipe. I used 3 large eggs instead of 3 extra large eggs, equal quantity of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, all purpose flour instead of cake flour, and I semi doubled the streusel topping. I say semi doubled because I didn't think it needed that much extra butter or flour.

Next time I would put more streusel in the middle so it would have a nice swirly line. I used about 1/2 cup I think. I would use closer to a full cup. Its coffee cake! Live a little! :)

I would also consider making it without the streusel and using blueberries and lemon or raspberries in the cake.

Update: 5/28, made this using the sour cream. This was a softer cake compared to the more pound cake texture the Greek yogurt cake. What would I make next time? I don't think you can go wrong either way!

Layer 1

Top layer! I almost forgot to take a picture haha

updated 10/13/2015: This is one of my new baking pans and we have a new camera that I wanted to try out! Below, I halved the amount of cake and kept the amount of streusel the same, delish!

Swirly Coffee Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt or Sour Cream
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the streusel: (this is doubled already!)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch pan that has the hole in the middle.

Cream the butter and sugar in the mixer with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light.

Add the eggs 1 at a time, and then add the vanilla and Greek yogurt.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in your food processor (or in a bowl and mix with your fingers) until it forms a crumble. Mix in walnuts, if desired. 

Pour half the batter into the bottom of the pan, layer with streusel, top with the rest of batter and remaining streusel.

Cook 50-60 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool before removing from pan. Serve at room temperature.