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.