Monday, May 28, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes

These coconut cupcakes are a little different from regular cupcakes. They are gluten and refined sugar free, even the frosting! But while they are healthy, they're still cupcakes and have calories. They're made using coconut flour which is high in fiber, coconut oil which is full of good for you medium chain fatty acids, and raw agave nectar which doesn't spike your blood sugar levels like white sugar does. They also have shredded coconut in the mix for extra coconutty flavor!

The frosting is Swiss meringue buttercream. I substituted coconut sugar in place of white sugar for the recipe. The taste was great, smooth and creamy from the butter with slight hint of carmel. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be using coconut sugar for SMB again. i=Its less refined and therefore there are some imperfections. These imperfections prevented the egg whites from whipping up to their desired stiff peaks. I beat them for 25 minutes and all I could achieve was medium peaks. This frosting did not pipe well which was very disappointing because I had to use it for cake decorating class.

Coconut Cupcakes 

makes about 10 cupcakes

3 eggs, room temperature
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup agave nectar
½ cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and gather ingredients.
In a small bowl blend eggs, coconut oil and agave nectar with a hand blender
Pulse in coconut flour, salt, baking soda and shredded coconut
Allow batter to sit and thicken for 2 minutes
Line a cupcake tin with paper liners
Spoon ¼ cup cupcake batter into each cupcake liner
Bake for 20-25 minutes
Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes
Frost with desired icing and serve
Makes about 10 cupcakes

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wilton Course 1 Lesson 2

For the second class we were required to bring in a cake and frosting to decorate it. We first practiced bead borders and building up 3d designs on the practice boards. We were also shown how to transfer a design from parchment paper onto the cake using parchment paper. I used a Swiss meringue butter cream to frost my cake which doent harden up like regular butter cream, so I wasn't able to use the parchment paper trick and just free handed my cupcake design. I think it came out pretty good, I need to practice more on making borders as mine are a little uneven. This was a very fun class because we were decorating the whole time.

The cake I made had no flour, butter, or sugar and it was delicious! Its a healthy low carb cake made from black beans, eggs, and coconut oil that I adapted from The texture was similar to carrot cake and the coco powder covered up any bean taste and the cake just tasted chocolaty. I think next time I'll add some mini chocolate chips or walnuts to camouflage the not perfect texture. I gave a piece to my boyfriend without telling him what it was and he really liked it, he said it tasted just like cake!

The frosting I chose was not healthy at all. Swiss meringue buttercream, dangerous stuff. Creamy buttery taste, silky smooth texture, and beautiful satiny finish makes this my new favorite frosting. Its also wonderful to pipe with, the egg whites really stabilize it so you don't need to add a ton of powdered sugar to make it stiff enough for decorating. Unfortunately, it contains a pound of butter, I'll have to reserve it for special occasions because that's way too much saturated fat to be eating regularly.

Healthy Indulgence Chocolate Cake

adapted from
makes one 9 inch cake


1-15 ounce can of low sodium black beans
5 large eggs, room tempuratue
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Truvia brand stevia
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease one 9 inch cake pan and dust with coco powder.

Drain and rinse beans and shake off excess water. Blend beans in a food processor until they are very smooth and set aside.
Sift together cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, set aside.
In a heat proof bowl, combine the stevia and coconut oil. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. If the coconut oil hardens up, whisk the mixture over a pan of simmering water until it is completly smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and water. Beat in the pureed beans until completely combined. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and blend well.
Pour into the cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. It will dome up while baking but fall flat as it cools. Let it cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing it.

I think the chocolate flavor could really be enhanced with a little espresso powder. As for a healthy frosting, Peanut Butter & Co's Dark Chocolate Dreams, fresh fruit, or I'm thinking of a greek yogurt and cream cheese combo I wanna try out.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

from, they have a wonderful how-to post

Makes approximately 3 1/2 cups


5 large egg whites
11/2 cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, sliced and softened
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Combine egg whites and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and place it over (not on) simmering water. Heat mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.
2.Transfer mixer bowl to stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools, doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes.
3.Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first—this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
4.Add flavoring, such as vanilla extract, mix to combine.

Crunchy Mustard Baked Salmon

The topping on this is absolutely delicious, I will definitely be making it regularly. Its lightly seasoned fresh bread crumbs mixed with whole grain and Dijon mustards and a tad of butter to hold it all together. I could eat this mix with a spoon right out of the food processor. It reminded me of hot dogs during the summer time! I used to love eating hot dogs topped with lots of mustard but haven't had any since giving up meat 2 years ago. This is a wonderful replacement, I guess what I really missed was mustard. 
The fish itself was on the dry side. I'm not sure if I overcooked it (I cannot eat undercooked fish!) or if It needed a marinade prior to cooking. Next time I plan on trying it with white fish.

Crunchy Mustard Baked Salmon

adapted from Serious Eats

2 slices wheat bread, torn into rough chunks.
4 boneless skinless salmon fillets, about 3-4 ounces each
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Preheat the broiler to high and adjust rack to 6 inches below the element. Pulse bread in the bowl of a food processor until coarse crumbs are created, add both mustards, butter, salt and pepper, and thyme if using. Pulse to combine. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add a about a tablespoon of oil and a little butter. Add salmon skin-side down and cook without moving until a nice crust has formed, about 2 minutes. Only sear one side. Pile the crumbs on the salmon, then transfer to the broiler. Broil until the crumbs are crunchy and browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mocha Bouquet

I made this cupcake flower bouquet to give to my mom for mother's day. It was really easy to put together. Its green flower foam inside of a terra-cotta flower pot and the cupcakes are stuck in using a combination of toothpicks and lollipop sticks. I used the square flower foam but net time I will defiantly be using the sphere shaped variety.

I baked chocolate wacky cake cupcakes for the cake base because it is egg and dairy free and my mom is allergic to eggs. This cake was a snap  to make, pretty much just dump and stir, I didn't even need to break out the electric mixer. I surprised how tasty they turned out considering no eggs or butter. They had a strong chocolate flavor and enhanced by the coffee added to the batter with mini chocolate chips throughout the cake. They were also super moist, I like these better than Martha's one bowl chocolate cupcakes. Great tasting and really quick and easy to mix up and bake.

My mom loves coffee so I made a coffee buttercream frosting for piping on the roses. The frosting had an intense coffee flavor and aroma and was really creamy and delicious, at first. I had to add more powdered sugar to the buttercream to make it stiff consistency in order to pipe the roses, in the end, it was a little sugary for my liking but the flowers looked and smelled beautiful. I also used half shortening in the buttercream for decorating reasons but for the best taste I recommend using all butter.

Double Chocolate Wacky Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream

Double Chocolate Wacky Cupcakes

slightly adapted from
makes 24 standard size cupcakes

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooled coffee
1 cup tap water
3/4 cup vegetable oil (not olive)
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips mixed with 1/2 tablespoon coco powder

Coffee Buttercream

makes enough to pipe 24 buttercream roses

4 cups powdered sugar, add an additional 1/2 to 1 cup for stiff consistency
12 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening, softened
2 Tablespoon instant coffee (I used sanka)
2 Tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
milk or cream as needed for desired consistency

For the Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir or sift together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking soda and kosher salt.
Ina separate bowl or large measuring cup mix together the coffee, water, oil, vanilla extract and vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well until combined.
Fold in the coco coated chocolate chips, coating them prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the cupcakes during baking.
Dived batter evenly among the cupcake liners. I like to pour it in a measuring cup and then pour it into the  liners but an ice-cream scoop also works well.
Bake for 20 minutes rotating the pans halfway through if your oven doesn't cook evenly.
Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then remove from pan and allow to fully cool.

For the Buttercream
Sift the powdered sugar. Set aside. Mix together 1 tablespoon of instant coffee and 1 tablespoon of hot water in a small bowl.
In a medium bowl cream the butter and shortening until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
Add the coffee mixture, vanilla, and kosher salt to the butter and shortening and mix to combine.
Slowly add the powdered sugar on low speed, 1/2 cup at a time. Once it’s combine, increase the speed to high and mix for 2 minutes.
Add desired amount of milk or cream and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lime Cod with 7 Grain Pilaf

I recently bought a big box of Kashi 7 whole grain pilaf for only $2.49! This was a great deal compared to quinoa, my grain of choice, that cost around $5 for a small box and the nutritional profile is very similar. At first I was concerned this pilaf was going to take forever to cook because even though the directions claim 25 minutes, it does contain brown rice which takes about 40. after 25 minutes, it was still hard so I added about a 1/4 cup more water and when that was fully absorbed the grains were still chewy. Well, the fish and veggies were done so, being impatient, I decided this grain mix was done. I was shocked at how delicious it was. It had a chewy bite similar to steel cut oats and was perfectly savory with the asparagus, mushroom, and spinach garlic mix I served with it. I will definitely be making it again and will post a more accurate cooking method.
Cod is one of my favorite white fishes and its usually cheaper than haddock. I like tilapia but only farm raised was available and I stay away from that. I marinated the cod in fresh lime juice along with some salt and pepper then seasoned it with old bay and some paprika. I baked it in the oven until it flaked with a fork. The mild fish had a light citrus flavor enhanced by some cilantro. Everything on my plate got a hefty helping of cilantro.

7 Grain Pilaf

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup pilaf mix
2 cups water
hefty pinch of salt
1/4 cup water

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden. Add the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil then add the pilaf and stir. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium low, let it simmer for 25 minutes then add the 1/4 of water and let it simmer until all the water is absorbed. This pilaf mixture is not sensitive to stirring or being uncovered during cooking, super easy to make. Fluff with a fork when done.

Asparagus, Mushroom, and Spinach Saute

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 a container of baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
hefty pinch of salt
pepper and paprika to taste
3 handfulls of baby spinach
1/4 cup of cilantro
juice of half a lemon

Heat oil in a medium skillet until it begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and saute until golden. Add the next four ingredients and continue to saute until the asparagus is fork tender, adding a little water if anything begins to stick to the pan. add the spinach and cilantro and cook until the spinach wilts. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and serve over the pilaf.

Lime Cod

1 pound fresh cod, cut into fillets
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 3 limes
1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning
pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish and squeeze the juice of 3 limes over the fish. Let marinate for no more than 15 minutes, flipping half way.
Drain the juice. Sprinkle the old bay and paprika evenly over both sides of the fillets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wilton Course 1 Lesson 1

I signed up last week to take the Wilton cake decorating classes at my local Micheal's Craft store. I have been wanting take the class for a while and finally found the time to sign up. Last night was the first class. According to the syllabus, students are required to buy Wilton frosting and the decorating kit which was $35 at the store but I think I bought mine for about $16 a few months ago on amazon. The kit includes various tips, reusable and disposable piping bags, icing spatula, decorating lessons to practice on and more. We were given the course 1 booklet at the beginning of class which includes many color photos displaying proper technique and step by step instructions but of course it also pushes the use of Wilton products. The four lesson course was only $22 which I think is a very good deal.

The class began with a thorough introduction from the personable Wilton instructor. She explained what was in out decorating kits, tips for baking cakes and what we would be learning in course 1. Then she demonstrated different butter cream consistencies and also demoed how to torte, fill, and smoothly frost a cake using a spatula. Then it was the students turn to practice on cookies. After filling piping bags we used the star tip (18) on the practice board and then we decorated our cookies so we could bring them home and show our families what we did in class.

Students were also required to bring in cookies from home to practice decorating on. I used a sugar cookie recipe from Bake at 350 which was very delicious and sturdy enough to bring to and from class with out breaking. This was a fantastic recipe for rolled cookies. The only thing I did not like about it was there is no measurement given for recommended thickness when rolling out the dough, I rolled mine to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. I think 1/4 inch would give best results. I also used room temperature butter even though the recipe calls for it to be cold, I only have an electric hand mixer and it would have been difficult to cream cold butter. To compensate for the temperature,  I let the dough chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes prior to rolling it out. The cookies did not seem to spread at all during cooking and held their shape extremely well. The cookies themselves were very tasty, just sweet enough and the texture was almost shortbread like. I would definitely use this recipe again to make rolled cookies.

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

Slightly adapted from Bake at 350

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
 2 sticks (unsalted) butter, room temperture
 1 egg
 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Add the flour mixture in three additions and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling. Chill the dough if neccessary.

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets (To prevent spreading, freeze the cut out shape on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking) and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Black Raspberry Cupcakes

After making the blueberry cupcakes, my boyfriend asked if I could make them using raspberries. I though this would be even better than the blueberry ones because raspberries have a stronger flavor. It also gave me an opportunity to use my new mini cupcake pan! The baby ones are super cute! I had planned on making my favorite buttermilk cake but my buttermilk was expired so I just made a plain butter cake which was as delicious as the buttermilk cake but with a more vanilla flavor and a slightly less tender crumb. I used the same cream cheese frosting base and just used a raspberry/blackberry puree instead of the blueberry. The frosting tasted like black raspberry ice cream.

Black Raspberry Cupcakes

Makes 20 standard cupcakes or 12 standard and 24 baby cupcakes

For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups (250 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake wrappers. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together over a medium sized bowl and set aside. Lighlty whisk the eggs together in small bowl to ensure even distribution in the batter, set aside. Combine the milk and extracts in a measuring cup and set aside.

Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until its lighter in color and satiny, 30-45 seconds. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Cream for 4-5 minutes until its light in color and fluffy in appearance, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add the eggs 1 at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. If the mixture appears watery or broken, stop adding the eggs and mix until the mixture appears smooth and silky again then resume adding the eggs.

Do the next part by hand. Add the flour in 4 additions alternately with the milk in 3 additions. To be clear, Add a fourth of the flour, to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, stir just until combined. Then add a third of the milk mixture and stir just until combined. Repeat, making sure to start and end with the flour. Fold in the blueberries.

Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups filling about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Black Raspberry Frosting
adapted from casual baker

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup berry puree*
2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the blueberry puree and almond extract just until combined. Add the icing sugar gradually and beat until smooth and spreadable.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as you desired. The frosting is somewhat sticky.

For the berry puree, simmer 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of blackberries in a small saucepan for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before making the frosting.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blueberry Cupcakes

No food coloring, just beautiful vibrant blueberries produced this lovely purple speckled frosting. Its a cream cheese based frosting with blueberry puree mixed in, very quick and super simple to whip up. It tastes sweet and creamy with a signature blueberry flavor that doesn't overpower. The cupcake itself is my absolute favorite buttermilk cake with blueberries folded in. This cake has a deliciously tender crumb that is magically light and dense at the same time, the flavor is unbeatable. It really needs no adornment but my boyfriend wanted this pretty colored frosting he saw when my laptop was opened on tastespotting so I happily tried it out. The sweet tart flavor from the bursting blueberries inside the cupcake was a perfect match for this delicious and eye-appealing frosting. A perfect cupcake treat for Summer.

Blueberry Cupcakes

For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups (250 grams) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups blueberries (thawed if frozen)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake wrappers. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together over a medium sized bowl and set aside. Lighlty whisk the eggs together in small bowl to ensure even distribution in the batter, set aside. Combine the buttermilk and extracts in a measuring cup and set aside.

Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until its lighter in color and satiny, 30-45 seconds. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Cream for 4-5 minutes until its light in color and fluffy in appearance, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add the eggs 1 at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. If the mixture appears watery or broken, stop adding the eggs and mix until the mixture appears smooth and silky again then resume adding the eggs.

Do the next part by hand. Add the flour in 4 additions alternately with the milk in 3 additions. To be clear, Add a fourth of the flour, to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, stir just until combined. Then add a third of the milk mixture and stir just until combined. Repeat, making sure to start and end with the flour. Fold in the blueberries.

Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups filling about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Blueberry Frosting
adapted from casual baker

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup blueberry puree*
2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the blueberry puree and almond extract just until combined. Add the icing sugar gradually and beat until smooth and spreadable.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as you desired. The frosting is somewhat sticky.

For the blueberry puree, simmer 1 cup of blueberries in a small saucepan for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before making the frosting.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Qunioa Tabuli Salad

Quinoa is a seed that cooks like a grain. It has become very popular the last few years and for good reason. Its full of protein, including essential amino acids, high in fiber and cooks super fast and easy. Its prepared just like rice but cooks in about 20 minutes compared to the 40 minutes it takes to simmer brown rice. Just make sure to buy the pre rinsed variety. The grains are very small and I personally find them hard to rinse, even using a fine mesh sieve I end up loosing some down the drain. Consequently, if they are not rinsed, they foam up during cooking.

Like most grains, quinoa soaks up flavors well so try cooking it in wine, stock, or just with water and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to first sauté it in a little oil with garlic and salt then simmer it in mostly water and just a touch of wine. Once it has fully absorbed the liquid, I stir in fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon and serve it sprinkled with toasted cashews. I also really like it with dried cranberries and pecans.

This was the first time I made a tabuli version with quinoa but the results were fantastic. I simmered the quinoa in mostly water and some white wine. Then I chopped up tomatoes, cucumbers, and a whole bunch of paresly and set that aside. When the quinoa had full absorbed the liquid I stirred in the parsley along with salt and a hefty amount of pepper then squeezed the juice of half an orange and 1 small lemon. When the quinoa had cooled to room temperature I folded in the tomatoes and cucumbers. The freshness of the parsley and the crunch of the fresh vegetables was delicious with the lemony quinoa.

Qunioa Tabuli Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup white wine (or water or stock)
salt and pepper
juice from 1 large lemon
a whole bunch of parsley

1/2 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 tomato, chopped

Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a medium sized saucepan. Add the garlic and quinoa and sauté until fragrant. Add the water and wine and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover the saucepan, and reduce heat to low to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork when done.
Let it cool to at least room temperature. Add the lemon and parsley and stir to combine. Fold in the cucumber and tomato and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or room temperature.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Homemade Pop-Tarts

I thought homemade Pop-Tarts would be a delicious way to finish up the pie dough I had left over from making quiche. They were very simple to make to, just roll out two equal-ish sized rectangles of dough, cut into pop tart shapes, put a tablespoon of filling, and top with a another pop tart shape. And maybe spend a little more time using a fork to make pop tart like indentations than I did, they have potential to be very pretty. I used my favorite real fruit berry/grape jam but I suspect anything would be great like peanut butter, nutella, thin sliced apples, or cinnamon sugar.

How did they compare to store bought Pop-Tarts? They tasted much better, especially the filling, and the flakiness was definitely superior. They also contain no high fructose corn syrup or weird artificial flavors. They were also delicious out of the oven but I'm not sure they would hold up in a toaster.  And while 1 single blueberry pop tart has 200 calories these homemade ones had 320. I did use whole wheat pastry flour to make them but pie dough has lots of butter in it. I think maybe next time I'll try using less butter or maybe subbing peanut butter for some, although I'm not sure that would work. Another option would be to just make the smaller, they were a little bigger than real Pop-Tarts.


Quiche is a type of savory pie typically served for brunch. It's base is made with eggs and milk then any combination of veggies or meat and cheese are mixed in. I wanted to make pie crust because I was doing my reacrch product on doughs and wanted to be more familiar with pie dough making. Coincidently food network magazine had a special feature last month on quiche so I decided to give that a shot and I'm glad I did because it was delicious. The only problem with this recipe is that it takes a super long time to make it. Pie dough generally takes a long time because it needs to chill for at least 2 hours before being rolled out. I think it would be a good appetizer for holiday dinners or something.

I was much happier the way this crust turned out than I was with the last crust I made for banana cream pie. This time I used all butter for fat in the recipe unlike the last pie that was a combination of butter and vegetable shortening. Apparently, the use of butter vs shortening is much debated in the pie baking realm. The argument is  butter produces a more flavorful crust while shortening yields a better texture. My suggestion would be to try both and decide for yourself.

Spinach Mushroom and Cheddar Quiche

1 pre-baked 9-inch pie crust

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
a couple handfuls baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup (heaping) shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sautee the veggies with some oil and salt in a medium skillet until soft and the spinach is wilted. Once cooled, mix them with the cheese and spread in an even layer over the bottom of the pre baked pie crust.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and spices. pour this over the pie crust. Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees and bake the pie for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is set. Let it cool 20-30 minutes before slicing, its very hot.

Monday, April 23, 2012

S'mores Cupcakes

This s'mores cupcake is way better than a regular s'more. It has a graham cracker cake base made with pulverized graham cracker crumbs. Its filled with marshmallow fluff and chocolate ganache then topped with more ganache and marshmallow buttercream frosting and garnished with graham cracker crumbs. I had originally saw a s'mores cake that was beautiful and thought it would be a good contender for the cake-off we had at my work. The cake had a major structural problem tho, the recipe contained no regular flour. It used all graham cracker crumbs in place of any flour. I didn't think this cake would hold up to being transported to work so I decided to sub some flour for some of the crumbs  and tryout a cupcake version. They turned out wonderful, yummy s'more flavor but a larger proportion of chocolate. I doubled the batch to make 24 to bring half to my Auntie's surprise birthday party and half to my boyfriends house. The cupcakes were a big hit and everyone really liked them but I personally liked the cookie dough ones better so I made that for the competition. Its hard to top cookie dough.

One problem I had with this cupcake was the chocolate ganache on top of the cake compressed the fluff, as you can see in the picture below, and dispersed the fluff throughout the cake. Next time I would try placing some of the removed cake back on top of the cut hole where the filling is to prevent this problem. It didn't effect the taste at all, it just didn't look as pretty when you bit into it.

I had wanted to make the filling all marshmallow but I ran out of fluff!

S'mores Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers ground in processor)
 1/2 cup all purpose flour
 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
 3/4 cups sugar
 2 large eggs, room temperature 
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Gather and Measure all ingredients. Whisk graham crumbs, flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt in medium bowl. Combine milk and vanilla in a measuring cup. Lightly whisk together the eggs.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just to blend and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add graham-cracker mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with graham-cracker mixture. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the Ganache
8 ounces chopped semi or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream in small sauce pan on the stove until its just boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and do not touch it for two full minutes. Then stir until smooth and let it cool until thickened.

For the Filling
Marshmallow fluff

When the cupcakes are fully cooled, core them using a small pairing knife, melon baller, or apple corer. Fill with marshmallow fluff and spread a thick layer of ganache over the top.

For the Marshmallow Buttercream

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or more for desired consistency)

In a medium bowl beat together the butter, fluff and powdered sugar until fluffy. Beat in the heavy cream until its the desired consistency. Top cupcakes as desired.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Portobello Steak and a Ribeye

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute. When they're cooked, they develop a very juicy flavor similar to that of meat. they are great on the grill because they are super sturdy which makes them perfect when your grilling steak for a non vegetarian.

I seasoned these with Portobellos with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil then grilled them and garnished with cilantro. Any fresh herb would be delicious would be a delicious finishing touch, cilantro is just my favorite.

I made sautéed bell papers and onion because my original plan was to make paper steak for my friend based on a recipe I saw online. However, when I went to the grocery store I wash;t sure which cut of steak to get. I asked a man the worked there and told me ribeye was an easy on just to grill and broil. Thus, I just grilled them and made the papers a side dish. I also made a side of quinoa because it cooks like a grain but is really a seed so its very high in protein. A perfect way to round out the vegetarian side of the meal.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake


 This is the cake of my dreams. Between layers of brown sugar chocolate chip cake lies a thick layer of gooey chocolate chip cookie dough and the whole cake is enclosed in a blanket of brown sugar buttercream and garnished with mini chocolate chips and fresh backed chocolate chip cookies. This cake is perfect for anyone who can't get enough raw cookie dough. I based this recipe on chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes from Annie's Eats. Most cupcake and cake recipes are interchangeable, just slightly different baking times and, obviously, different pan sizes. I used two 9 inch cake pans for my dream cake but 8 inch would be great also and would leave you with extra batter for cupcakes.

cookie dough filling as thick as the cake layers

I doubled the filling recipe because when I just prepared the original amount it did not look the thick lushous layer of cookies dough I had envisioned. I also multiplied the frosting recipe by 1.5 to ensure I would have enough to cover and decorate the cake but this was unnecessary as I had a lot left over after finishing the cake. In total, I used about 8 sticks of butter for this cake! even if the cake is cut into 16 slices, thats still 1/2 stick of butter per slice. The unhealthiness of this amazing cookie cake puts it in the only for special occasions category.

I baked this specialty for a cake-off me and my supervisor, Tom, had at work. Every year in April is when we celebrate everyone's birthday at my job. Tom suggested we have a contest this year to see who could bake the best cake after I brought in some banana split cupcakes to work. His  car shaped mini cakes didn't stand a chance, they didn't even have frosting.

The competition

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake
Yield: 24 cupcakes or two 9- inch layers
Adapted from annie's-eats


For the cupcakes:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups light brown sugar, packed

4 large eggs

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mini chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:

I doubled this for an extra thick layer of filling
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting: 

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

3½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ tsp. salt

3 tbsp. milk

2½ tsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:
Tiny chocolate chip cookies

Mini chocolate chips


1  To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper or for cupcakes, line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total). Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together to blend. In a measuring cup, stir together the milk and vanilla.
2  In a large mixing bowl combine the butter and brown sugar. Cream together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed or by hand, in in 3 additions alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
4  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans or cupcake liners. Bake cake for 20-25 minutes or cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
5  To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.
6  To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture. It helps to roll the dough into balls before refrigeration. To make a nice even cake layer, put a large piece of parchment paper over a 9-inch cake pan and put the filling in that to refrigerate so it will be the same shape as the cake.
7 To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.
Frost as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips and topping with mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie

For my research project in English class my topic is on doughs and batters and one of my little sub topics is pie. I don't have much experience making pie but I thought it couldn't be that difficult, theres 3 ingredients plus salt. I deffinitly need more practice lol, the crust came out good but its hard to work with pie dough. You have to barely handel the dough to prevent it from becoming tough. I used my food processor to combine the flour and fats (shortening and butter), but next time I will use a pastry blender to have more control over the size of the fat pieces. I am planning on making a savory pie, Quiche, this weekend and hopefully it will be prettier than the one pictured above. I was really disappointed I didn't have enough extra dough to make a pretty decorative border.

I am not by any means saying this pie wasn't good, it was delicious. The bottom of the crust is coated with chocolate to prevent sogginess, then theres a layer of sweet sliced bananas, filled with home made custard and topped with fresh sweetend whip cream and garnished with chocolate drizzle and more sliced bananas.

When I began baking this, I was way more intimidated to make the custard than the pie crust. I had never made custard before and was afraid I would end up with scrambled eggs and boiled milk all over the stove (this happened once making oatmeal, it NEVER comes off). I followed a recipe for pastry cream from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, a very reliable cookbook, and it was surprisingly easy. I started off by simmering some whole milk and combining egg yokes, sugar and a little flour in a separate bowl. Then you first temper the eggs to prevent scrambling, and add them to the milk and simmer while whisking until it thickens. Just let it chill in the fridge and thats it!

I topped this pie with some fresh whipped cream to make it super decadent. Fresh whipped cream is incredibly easy and way better than anything in a can or a tub from the grocery store. It does, however, consist of heavy cream (sometimes called whipping cream) so its very high in calories and expensive, like $5 for a little carton. I highly recommend it for special occasions. All you really need is the heavy cream, if you like it sweet, like I do, put a few heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla in with the cream before you begin mixing.

Whip Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Chill a metal bowl and your mixing utensils in the freezer for about 10 minutes, having them very cold helps the cream whip.
2. Combine all ingredients in the bowl and whip until peaks form. I use an electric mixer and it takes about three minutes, your shoulder will get tired.
3. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Whole Wheat Pizza II

I have been making my own whole wheat pizza dough for a few months now and I think this new recipe is the best yet. I use more cornmeal in this new recipe than the previous pizza dough recipe I posted. The larger amount of cornmeal results in a more pizza like texture and less earthy taste. However, it's a little more difficult to handle this dough because its more crumbly and prone to tearing. I'm not totally sure why but my guess is because cornmeal does not contain gluten. Gluten, the protein formed by combing wheat flour and water, is responsible for the elasticity (stretchiness) of dough. Crumbly dough aside, the higher amount of cornmeal produces the crunch expected of pizza and should definitely be included. I have also been incorporating dried herbs and spices into the dough which makes it more flavorful. I use garlic powder and oregano but you can use anything such as basil, rosemary, or an Italian seasoning blend.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough II

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 warm water
1T olive oil
1t honey
1-2C whole wheat pastry flour
3 heaping tablespoons yellow corn meal
1t salt
1t garlic powder

1 scant teaspoon oregano

1. Stir the yeast in a bowl with the water and honey. It should foam up in 5 minutes or so.
2. Stir in the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a ball forms. Add enough flour so that the dough is still sticky.
3. Knead the dough ball for 8-10 minutes then cover with plastic and let it rise for 1-2 hours.
4. Punch out the air and roll out the dough to fit the pan you are using.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

White Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are pretty popular on restaurant menus but I had never tried making my own until now. It was super easy and featured some of my favorite flavors like fresh cilantro, spicy peppers, and lime. They were also very easy to make. While the fish marinated in lime juice I was able to get everything else chopped for the pico de gallo and cilantro cream sauce. For a healthy substitute, I made the cream sauce with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and it was delicious and even tasted great on the pineapple. I had considered making refried beans or brown rice as a more typical side dish but my boyfriend and I both love pineapple and I found a huge one at the grocery store. Tacos are also great for a crowd because everyone can pick what they want or don't want on their own taco.
I used tilapia for my fish tacos but haddock or cod would also be fabulous and I suspect shrimp would be as well. Be careful not to marinate the fish any longer than 15-20 minutes. Because of its delicate protein structure, fish tenderizes much quicker than chicken or beef.

White Fish Tacos


For the fish:
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
¼ tsp. cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. tilapia (or any mild white fish)

For the cilantro cream sauce:
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
6 oz. nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 small clove garlic, minced
pinch of stevia to taste (or sugar)
salt and pepper to taste

For serving:
6-inch corn tortillas, slightly warmed in the oven or microwave
crunchy lettuce, iceberg or Romain
pico de gallo (recipe later)


1. Combine the lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and garlic in a shallow dish.  Whisk together until well blended.  Place the fish in the mixture, turning to coat.  Let marinate 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro cream sauce.  Combine all the ingredients for it in a small bowl and mix until well blended.

3. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fish and cook about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate, adjust the seasonings, and let cool for a few minutes.  Shred the fish into bite-sized pieces with two forks.

4. Assemble tacos on tortillas with shredded fish, cilantro cream sauce and toppings as desired.

Marinara Sauce

My family always called marinara sauce gravy, but when I call it that around other people they never have any idea what I'm referring to. No matter what its called its delicious as long as its home made, that garbage that comes in the jar is nothing like the real thing, its way too sweet due to unnecessary added sugar and no veggies. Real marinara has a strong tomato and garlic flavor and is filled with chunks of bell peppers and onion. My mom makes a more traditional sauce with meat such as meatballs, sausage, spare ribs, or any meat that happens to be in the fridge. The long cooking time makes the meat fork tender and fall right off the bone. Obviously my vegetarian version does not have any meat so I sub a poblano for a green bell pepper or add a little jalepano for a kick and my mom even asks me how I make mine now. 
Making home made tomato sauce is incredibly simple but it does take a little planning because it needs to simmer for a while on the stove. Of course its great on pasta and pizza but its also fantastic just on veggies! It freezes very well thus I usually make a double batch and freeze portions in glass jars. The portion size depends on your preference.

Marinara Sauce

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped (or a green bell pepper)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 a jalepano, minced (use this if you can't find poblanos)
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (use less if you don't love garlic)
1/4 cup of red wine, which ever you drink
2 28oz cans crushed tomatos
1 8oz can tomato paste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, oregano, basil or an Italian seasoning blend
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add the peppers and some salt and sauté about 5 minutes then add the onion and continue to cook while stirring until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook until light golden.
2. Deglaze the pan with the wine, meaning, add the wine and scrape any burnt bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, this will happen quickly. Turn the down to super low and let it simmer for at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours stirring occasionally.
4. Serve with Parmesan cheese :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Banana Split Cupcakes

These banana split cupcakes turned out absolutely beautiful. Its a fluffy banana cupcake with sweet strawberry filling topped with fresh whipped cream, rich chocolate ganach, rainbow jimmies and a maraschino cherry. I love maraschino cherries, I order rum cokes just for the cherries and sneak them from the bar top when no ones looking lol. Back to the cupcakes, this recipe made 30 so I brought a dozen to work and a dozen to my boyfriend and his roommates leaving the rest for my family. These tempting treats were quickly devoured by my coworkers and family and my boyfriend had one for breakfast. They were a huge hit.
gather all necessary ingredients and equipment before
 you start to make things go more smoothly
I found this recipe on Annie's Eats and copied it exactly for the most part. I think the only thing I changed was omitting the canned pineapple because I hate canned pineapple. I considered using fresh but worried about the enzymes destroying the cake. I also used thawed frozen strawberries and added and extra tablespoon of powdered sugar to the berries. I also had to double the amount of whip cream because the amount she listed was not enough for all 30 cupcakes.
unusual beginnings
A big concern I had when decorating these was worrying the ganache would melt the whip cream. To avoid this catastrophe, I let the frosted cupcakes chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. I also let the ganache cool to the touch before applying it. Another concern was having to keep these treats refrigerated, I think refrigeration dries out cake and kills flavors however, these cupcakes are incredibly moist and were just as good the next day. I had also never made cake were the butter and sugar creamed like this recipe. Usually creaming yields a light and fluffy butter and sugar combo but this was grainy looking and I was concerned they were not going to rise properly. Lucky for me they rose perfectly but this could have been due to the large amount of baking soda. I think if I were to make these again I would cut down the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 cups to get a more standard batter.