Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cookies n' Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

These cupcakes were delicious. I saw something like this on Martha Stewarts website and it just looked too good not to make. I made a few changes to Martha's original recipe. For the crust, she simply puts a whole Oreo in the bottom of each cup in the muffin pan. While this method is quick and creates a beautiful presentation, I didn't think it was practical for eating. When just eating Oreos no one bites into the whole thing, you twist it apart and dunk it in a big glass of milk, biting into the thing whole would just create a crumby mess. To solve this problem, I just made an Oreo crumb crust using cookies and a few tablespoons of butter which held together perfectly when bitten into. I followed her cheesecake filling exactly and it was everything I expect from Martha, delicious. Crushed Oreo chunks are suspended in the thick cheesecake creating a crunchy contrast to the creamy smooth filling. Unfortunately, Martha's cupcakes were frosting-less, which is just crazy, every cake needs frosting. I made a simple whip cream frosting with a couple handfuls of very finely crushed Oreo crumbs folded in. the light whip cream balanced the heaviness of the cheesecake and made them look beautiful. Be sure to finely crush the crumbs for the frosting otherwise your pastry bag will get clogged and drive you crazy.

finely crushed

Cookies n' Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

for the crust
half a box of oreos
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for the cheesecake
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
half a box of Oreos, crushed in the food processor

for the frosting
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla exract
1/2 to 2/3 a cup very finely crushed Oreos

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line a muffin tin with paper liners
3. For the crust, combine Oreos and melted butter in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add more butter if necessary, it should hold together when pressed but should not feel greasy.
4. Using a shot glass, press heaping tablespoons of the buttery crumbs into the lined muffin tins.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees.
6. For the cheese cake, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually stream in the sugar and continue to beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla.
7. Add the eggs in slowly, beating to combine and scraping the sides of the bowl with each addition. Beat in the sour cream and salt until combined. Fold in the Oreos by hand as you would chocolate chips in cookie dough.
8. Cheesecake doesn't rise so you can fill the cups almost to the top. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for another 10-15 minutes. They should be slightly springy like Jello when you check for doneness.
9. Leave them in the muffin tins to cool. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least for 4 hours.
10. To make the frosting, beat the whip cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, don't give up its only about 3-4 minutes but you'll get a shoulder workout. Gently, fold in the cookie crumbs by hand.

These are the cupcakes as soon as I took them out.
They poof up a little but fall flat when cooled.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chinese Take Out at Home

Stir fries are indispensable when cooking for a mixed diet table because they are easily adaptable to add in whatever protein you prefer, making it a perfect dish when vegetarians and omnis are eating together. I can simple cook my egg separate from my boyfriends chicken to create a delicious dinner we can enjoy together. Stir fries are also a creative way to use up any leftover rice or vegetables you have in the fridge. I used broccoli as pictured above but any combo of peppers, snow peas, carrots or whatever you have on hand will turn out delicious as long as you cook it to tender crisp, meaning, cooked but still bright and snappy. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, only a little of each product is needed for the sauce so all those exotic vinegars and oils will last for quite a while.This dish is much better than anything from a Chinese restaurant, its fresh, way less greasy and much cheaper than take out. 
with chicken

Orange Chinese Take Out Stir Fry

For the Sauce
3/4C water
1/3C rice vinegar
juice from 1 orange
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 1/2T braggs liquid amines (or soy sauce)
1T sesame oil
3T light brown sugar
1T stevia
1t minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
3T corn starch whisked with 2T water

1. Combine all the ingredients except the corn starch slurry* in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. When it reaches a boil, whisk in the slurry and reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to cook until the sauce is thickened and the rest of the meal is prepared.

For the Stir Fry
1C brown rice, cooked

1 package chicken tenders
1C orange juice
salt and pepper
some flour for searing

1 egg, scrambled

1-2T canola oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets

1. Marinate the chicken in the orange juice for 20-30 minutes. 
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 
3. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper. Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the garlic is golden but not brown.
4. Add the broccoli and cook until tender-crisp. Remove from the pan and keep warm while the chicken cooks. 
5. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then lightly dredge it in the flour.
6. Cook over medium to medium high heat in the same skillet coated with a little oil.
7. Cook the scrambled egg in a separate pan.
8. To assemble, add a scoop of rice to a plate or bowl along with the broccoli and either the chicken or egg. Pour the desired amount of sauce over the top.

The slurry is the corn starch and water mixture. It is essential to mix them together before adding them to the sauce so that they mix in smoothly. Just adding corn starch to a liquid creates a lumpy mess that no one wants for dinner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza and Pasta, Part 1

I could eat pizza every night and never get board. There are so many different crusts, sauces and topping combinations, the possibilities are endless. This cauliflower pizza differs from traditional pie in that the crust is made of grated cauliflower instead of dough. It has a light fluffy texture and with the sauce and cheese, tastes remarkably like classic cheese pizza. I gave a slice to my Italian dad without telling him what it was, and he declared it was delicious and asked me what bakery I picked up the dough from, he still doesn't know it was cauliflower. My Papa Gino's fanatic boyfriend also thinks it taste like the real thing and he even knows what its truly made out of.  I've been making this pizza for years, and because there is no dough you can serve it along side pasta without having a carb overload. Its also a wonderful trick to sneak more veggies into anyone's diet.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 egg
1 clove of garlic
1/2T oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400. Grate the cauliflower. To do this I recommend a food processor but a cheese grater will also work but its time consuming and it can get dangerous, I've cut myself a few times on those.
2. If using a food processor you can throw all the other ingredients in a bowl and pulse to combine. If your making it without, use a medium size bowl and your hands.
3. Flatten the mixture into an 8x8in pan spritzed with cooking spray. Cook for about 10 minutes.
4. Top with sauce and cheese and cook until the cheese is bubbly

For a cheesier taste, mix a half  a cup of  shredded mozzarella into the cauliflower mixture (step 2).
The recipe can be doubled to fit a 9x11in pan.
The only drawback to this pizza is its hard to eat with your hands, you need a fork.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whole Wheat Corn Bread

flavorful and  slightly crunchy

Makes dinner feel like dessert! Corn bread is quick and easy and makes a great accompaniment to chili, soup, stew, or whatevers for dinner tonight. While there are plenty of just add water mixes available in the grocery store making your own is totally worth the extra 10 minutes of measuring wholesome ingredients. Here are 5 reasons to make it all by yourself,
1. Some packaged brands, such as Jiffy, contain lard (EW!)
2. You probably already have most of the ingredients in your panty
3. Its much cheaper to make from scratch
4. It taste amazing!!
5. No scary shelf stabilizers

I don't like boxed mixes of any kind. Sure they are quick, fail proof, and can even taste great, but its not really baking. I think baking takes time for a reason. Most people don't have time to cream butter and sugar everyday but thats ok because we shouldn't be eating fudge brownies and funfetti cake everyday. Real baked goods take time and aren't meant to be eaten daily. They are reserved for special occasions or as a weekend treat to share with friends.

Whole Wheat Cornbread 
adapted from Mark Bittman

1 1/5C corn meal
1/2C whole wheat pastry flour
1.5tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
2T stevia (or any sweetener)
1 1/4C buttermilk
2-3T butter or oil 
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare 8x8in baking pan.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another.
3. Mix the wet into the dry and stir to fully combine adding more buttermilk if the batter is dry.
4. Pour into the pan and bang it on the counter to smooth it out. Bake for about 25 minutes.

1. Whole wheat pastry flour makes for a better tasting bread but regular whole wheat flour can also works.
2. If you don't have buttermilk you can use regular milk, keifer, plain yogurt, or google make your own buttermilk.
3. I usually do a combination of butter and cannola oil but obviously butter will produce a lighter crumb and richer flavor.
4. This is just a basic recipe, you can mix in whatever your heart desires, corn, cheese, jalepano, spice combos, endless possibilities. Just fold your mixers in at the end like you would chocolate chips in a cookie. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lentil Snobby Joe's

simple and delicious

Everything you love about sloppy Joe's, lotsa tomato, subtle spice, a dash of tang and a hint of sweet,  minus the hamburg. This vegetarian classic replaces the meat with fast cooking lentils making it great for busy weeknight dinners plus it makes a ton so you can have it for lunch the next day. I've made this dish a lot and it always comes out great and all the omnis I have made it for think its delicious as well. Traditionally served on burger buns it can also be served chili style with some shredded cheese and a big hunk of corn bread, like pictured above.

Lentil Snobby Joe's
adapted from

1C dry lentils
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 jalepano or 1/2tsp  red pepper flakes
1 12oz can tomato sauce
2T tomato paste
2T chili powder
1-2T paprika
1T cumin
1T yellow mustard
2T maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook lentils until they are soft but not mushy.
2. In a BIG skillet or pot, cook the onion, peppers, and garlic until soft.
3. Add the cooked and drained lentils to the veggies.
4. Add the seasonings and stir well. Then add the tomato sauce, paste, mustard and syrup.
5. Simmer on low for at least 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cookie Dough Cupcakes

layers of cookie dough

Whenever I make chocolate chip cookies it takes all my will power not to just take a spoon to the batter and forget the cookies. I love cookie dough so when I saw a recipe for these cupcakes I had to try it out. These cupcakes consist of a chocolate chip cake that replaces regular white sugar with brown sugar to give them that traditional chocolate chip cookie taste. Then they have a cookie dough truffle filling which  is super incredibly AMAZING, I have no words to describe how delicious this filling is, if nothing else just make the filling. And if thats not enough cookie dough goodness, to top off this incredible confection, they are frosted with cookie dough buttercream which incorporates more brown sugar for even more classic cookie dough taste. All of these elements are incredible on there own, but together they create an over the top dessert that is perfect for cookie dough addicts.

I used the recipe found on Annie's Eats and followed the cake part exactly. The only thing I changed was adding a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar to the filling and frosting because I wanted the chocolate chip cookie flavor to be extra prominent. Annie's Eats has a ton of delicious looking treats but I feel like the directions for filling the cupcakes weren't there for someone who is new to baking so I thought I would give some direction for that.

Method for Filling
1. Refrigerate the filling for at least an hour so its easier to work with. I made the filling a day before which is a great option if you don't have a lot of time on the day you plan to serve them.
2. Roll the filling into 1/2-1 tablespoon balls, just like if you were going to bake cookies. Try not to eat too many :)
3. Cut a hole in the cooled cupcakes big enough for the dough balls to fit. I used a melon baller for this task but a pairing knife or an apple corer will also work.
cut holes

4. Smush dough balls into the cupcakes. Don't worry if they don't fit perfect, the frosting will cover any imperfections.
5. Frost! I had about half the buttercream left over so if your a frosting fein you can really go nuts here and have a 2:1 frosting to cupcake ratio.
decorate with mini chocolate chips


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roasted Grapes

I had seen a few recipes for roasted grapes and finally decided to try it out after seeing it featured on The recipe they featured called for olives and honey but I didn't have those on hand. I think the olives would have added a nice salty element but olives just didn't seem like the right fit, maybe capers. To replace the honey I used maple syrup which proved to be a great addition. ALWAYS use real maple syrup, colored corn syrup is not it, even if it is $6 cheaper.

Roasted Rosemary Grapes with Maple Walnuts 

2T FRESH rosemary
1T olive oil
2T balsamic vineger
1T mapel syrup
1t stevia
salt to taste
1/3C walnuts, chopped
1.5lbs seedless red grapes

1. Heat the oil and rosemary over med-high heat for about five minutes.
2. Mix everything else together and toss to coat the grapes. Pour the rosemary and oil over the grapes and transfer this mixture to a baking sheet.
3. Bake for 15 minutes at 350. Serve hot or cold


Pizza is one of my favorite foods and its super easy to make a healthier version at home. I just started making my own dough because I wanted to make a whole wheat crust but I had never worked with yeast and thought it was super complicated and time consuming.  And while making your own dough and sauce is a bit more work than microwaving some frozen Digiorno, its definitely worth the extra work. And what I've been happy to learn is all you have to do when using active dry yeast is to mix everything together and then knead it for about 10 minutes, and it comes together really easily. The corn meal isn't necessary but it really gives the crust a crisper texture.

the dough will double in size
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

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

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.
half mushroom and half pepperoni for Sparky
be sure to cook toppings before putting them on pizza

5. Top with whatever you like and bake in a preheated oven at 375 for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.
Crisp Crust!
I can't remember where I heard this quote but it was a few years ago and its one of those life lessons thats just always stuck with me so I thought I would share it, "Pizza is like sex, when its good its really good and when its bad its still pretty good."

Apple Walnut Lentil Loaf

I was really surprised how good this dinner was. I wasn't sure how it was gonna turn out because I had never made a lentil loaf before and thought it was going to taste bland and not hold its shape well. but to my delight it came out way better than I thought, it held its shape when sliced and served and tasted delicious, my meat eating boyfriend said it tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing. This sweet yet savory loaf features plump raisons, crunchy walnuts and a granny smith apple for a unique twist on the traditional meat loaf.
This recipe comes together really easily especially if you already have cooked lentils on hand otherwise the lentils will take an extra 30ish minutes to cook.

Apple Walnut Lentil Loaf


For the Loaf
1C cooked lentils
1 onion chopped
3-4 colves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 celery, chopped
1 apple, grated
1/4C of raisins
1/4-1/2C walnuts, chopped
1-2t thyme
1/2t cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 egg
1/2C uncooked oatmeal, processed into oat flour
2 slices wheat bread, lightly toasted and processed into crumbs

For the Glaze
1.5T ketchup
1T maple syrup
1/2 of the grated apple

1. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the carrot, celery, 1/2 of the apple, raisons, walnuts and salt and pepper and cook about 5 more minutes then remove from heat.
2. Process about 3/4 of the lentils in the food processor and then combine everything in a bowl and mix together with your hands.
3. Put into a prepared loaf pan and spread the glaze over the top. Cook at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

For the glaze just mix everything together in a small bowl and spread it on top before cooking

Saturday, February 4, 2012



I tried my first hostess cupcake a few weeks ago because my boyfriend was surprised I never had one. I was not impressed, it tasted like I would expect a plastic wrapped cupcake to taste like- dry cake and sugary chocolate frosting. The ingredients were also gross and included beef fat (ewww!) and all kinds of weird chemicals that aren't even food. I decided I could make some that tasted much better and while my homemade ones aren't healthy for you either, I think butter and sugar are much safer to eat than whatever is in that shelf stable hostess.
For the chocolate cupcake I used Martha Stewert's one bowel chocolate cupcake recipe. It calls for buttermilk which is similar in flavor and acidity to sour cream and yogurt and also produces a better textured crumb. Buttermilk can be hard to find in grocery stores which is surprising because its commonly used in cornbread, biscuits and southern fried dishes. I have found it in the more expensive grocery stores like Big Y and Shaw's but if you can't find it, you can try subbing keifer (like a drinkable yogurt) or you can try making your own butter milk by mixing regular milk with white vinegar. I have never tried making my own but have subbed  keifer for buttermilk in a cornbread recipe and it turned out great. Buttermilk is definitely worth seeking out, especially if you want your cake to have a tender crumb.

For the filling, I googled "Hostess cupcake recipe" and came across this recipe on Annies-eats. I copied her filling recipe exactly and it was so good I could have scraped the fake-stess idea and just ate filling.
The chocolate frosting is just ganache. I used semi sweet chocolate because I didn't want it to be super rich-I was going for close to hostess-ness here. It turned out just slightly rich and it was super smooth and easy to spread on the cupcake. It also had an appealing glossy shine.

For the Chocolate Ganache

1C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2C heavy cream
1T unsalted butter

1. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until its hot to the touch. You do not want to boil or scald here.
2. Place chocolate in a metal bowl.
3. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk until is nice and smooth.
4. Let it cool slightly before spreading it on the cupcakes. It shouldn't be too thin when you frost because it will just drip over the cupcakes and make a mess. You should have to spread it with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

fun to decorate

This whole recipe was pretty simple. The cake is super fast and easy, I made that and the filling in the hour I have between school and work. Assembling them takes longer because you have to cut a whole in each cupcake (I used a melon baller) and keep refilling pastry bags. These Fake-stesses are totally worth the effort and are much better than any garbage in a plastic wrapper.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa and Shredded Brussle Sprots

Black bean burgers are very easy to make and taste much better than any kind of frozen fake meat patty from the grocery store. I also wanted to make something that allowed me to play with my new food processor and with bean burgers, you can simply toss all the ingredients in the machine and they form up effortlessly. Beans themselves are a good source of protein, fiber, and calcium. The mango salsa adds a zesty sweetness that balances the spicy jalepano in the burgers, although mangos probably were not the best choice because they don't taste as good this time of year. I think a green apple, pear, or orange would work great during the colder months. Produce always taste better when its in season.
Theres a common misconception about brussel sprouts, a lot of people think they don't like them when the truth is they've just never tasted them prepared properly because, brussel sprouts are delicious. There are several different ways to cook them my favorite is roasted with garlic and lots of salt then sprinkled with parmesan cheese. In this recipe I shredded and stir fried them (so I could use new food processor!) then topped them with a granny smith apple and lemon juice for a fresh taste that would tie in with the lime juice from the salsa. The crunch from the apple also added texture to the dish. Brussel sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli and are known to have anti-cancer properties, they are also in season this time of year.

Black Bean Burgers
2C black beans (or 1 can)
1-1.5C grain of choice
1/4 of a red bell pepper
1/2 or 1 whole jalepano
A handful of fresh cilantro
salt, peper, cumin, chili powder, paprika to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 and spray a small sheet pan with nonstick spray.
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Mashing everything together with a fork works just fine too.
3. Refrigerate while you make the salsa. This isn't necessary but it makes shaping them easier.
4. Form them into 4 burger shapes and bake for about 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
For the grain, you can use whatever you have like oatmeal, breadcrumbs, cooked rice. I used some left over quinoa and oatmeal.
You can also cook these on top of the stove on a skillet over medium-high heat but I in my experience, its a mess trying to flip them.
Usually I add an egg to the mix to hold everything together but this time I forgot and they held together fine and were easier to handle.

Mango Salsa
1 mango, chopped
3/4 of a red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a shallot, chopped
1/2 a jalepano, chopped
A ton of cilantro
The juice of 1 lime (use lemon if your using an apple or pear instead of a mango)
salt to taste

1. Mix everything together in a bowel and pop it in the fridge until ready to use.

Shredded Brussel Sprouts
1 cup of brussel sprouts, stems and outer leaves removed
1/2 a shallot
salt and pepper to taste
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped
juice of 1 lemon

1. Shred the sprouts in a food processor
2. Heat about 1T of oil in a skillet over medium high heat, add the shallot and cook until its tender.
3. Add the brussel sprouts, salt and pepper and cook until the wilt down some.
4. Toss with chopped apple and lemon juice