Saturday, November 30, 2013

Coming in 2014 - The 50 Sweets of America

I can hardly believe tomorrow is the first day of December, which means Christmas is only 25 days away. Yikes!

It's been a while since I've done anything theme-related on this blog, though the Cupcake of the Month has continued here and there (and I do have one more cupcake I plan to whip up this coming month). Recently, I was putzing around the internet and stumbled across a couple sites that listed semi-official, if not official, sweet treats and desserts from different parts of the United States. So I decided, "Hey, that'd be a fun theme to play with on the blog!"

But I need help, readers! I'm looking for input on official (or semi-official) state treats from across the country, and I'd like to have a list compiled by the end of December. And yes, I do plan to bake said sweets in alphabetical order according to state.

As such, you have from now until December 31st to either leave a comment on this post or email me with your suggestions for state sweet treats from across America!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spinach & Broccoli Quiche with Pepper Jack Cheese

Normally I'm not a huge fan of quiche. I'm not a huge fan of eggs to begin with, and most quiches taste like eggs. So I was pleasantly surprised upon trying my friend Andrea's recipe, which is a bit of a "whatever veggies you happen to have in the fridge" sort, how much I liked her version of this breakfast dish.

My attempt didn't taste quite the same as hers, and I think it may have been due to the cheese (hers was a lot spicier than what I procured).

Anyway, it's really easy, and here's how you do it. Remember, you can really put any veggies in that you like - red peppers would be another great addition, you could use kale instead of spinach, maybe kick the whole thing up with a few dashes of Tabasco.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Empanadas

The sixth-grade team, of which I am now a part, has developed a little bit of a "let's order/make awesome lunches once a week" custom going on now. This week, the two gentlemen on our grade level team decided to make lunch for the ladies, and they settled on Mexican as the theme.

To go along with the chips and salsa and quesadillas, I decided to whip up a Mexican dessert to share. As it's also apple season, I decided on these delicious apple cinnamon empanadas from Diana's Desserts.

Okay, so empanadas aren't much more than single-serving hand pies or turnovers. Main course empanadas (meaning those filled with meat and/or cheese) are often fried, but can be baked as well, just like these dessert empanadas.

Here's how I made them!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

March of the Fondant Penguins

Wow, sorry for the super sporadic posts of late. Can I blame work? I've been just staying above the Common Core waters of late, and my focus has been elsewhere.

Anyhoo, I have something fun to share today. Not a recipe per say, but a fun way to play with food.

My sister got married about a month ago, and her theme was penguins. She really, really loves penguins.

Really loves penguins.

And she wanted her cake to look like a big ice hill with penguins playing and sliding and otherwise looking adorable on it. She found a cake topper on Etsy, and then asked me to make a whole bunch of fondant penguins to match. I agreed, though I wasn't sure exactly how this would all work out. But it would give me a chance to play with all the fondant tools I bought when I took the Wilton Method fondant and gum paste course a few years ago. I also made my sister help.

Fortunately for me, Wilton makes rolled fondant that's already dyed black. Otherwise it would not have been fun tinting white fondant.

We started off by making all the bodies. Sixteen of them. Most standing, but three sliding on their bellies.

Then we formed all the teeny tiny pieces and parts. Tummies, eyes, wings, beaks, and feet.

I made a fondant glue (a pea-sized ball of fondant dissolved in 1/4 cup of really warm water) and started assembling. And three hours later - voila! Penguins! (Sorry he's so blurry!)

Sixteen dang adorable penguins of all kinds!

They sat for a week to dry. Then we brought them to the baker who was making the cake, and he arranged them on the cake. And it looked awesome.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cookies & Cream Mini Cheesecakes (Cupcake of the Month #14)

It's been a really long time since I've shared a Cupcake of the Month. There was a molten chocolate concoction I attempted in June, but it needs a little perfecting before I post about it.

The September 2013 cupcake however, needs no perfecting. Just repetition because it's awesome.

It's a cookies and cream mini cheesecake, with an Oreo cookie as the crust!

I've had bad luck with sinking cheesecake cupcakes in the past, but not so with these babies. I think the use of the cookies sort of helped keep them from sinking. These are a Martha Steward recipe, but try as I might, I can't seem to find a link to the original recipe right now. While it says you can get 30 cupcakes out of this, I made 24 regular sized and still had enough batter for 24 minis.

Anyway, here's how I made them!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp

Some of my best stir fry happens when I'm just playing around in the kitchen. A while back, I came up with this shrimp dish that rated "highly edible" on my husband's food-tastiness scale.

It's very easy and, like most stir fries, quick to cook and serve.  Here's how.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unplanned hiatus of sorts...

I realized the other day that I've only posted once since getting home from our fantabulous vacation earlier this month. And then I felt really bad, because one of my long standing blogger goals is to post at least four recipes a month. Of course, if you look at the archives, 2013 hasn't gone much in that direction. Geez, I even missed Julia Child's birthday!

So what's the deal with my unplanned hiatus? Well, like I said, the hubs and I took a great vacation to New England, which involved the eating of lobsters and the watching of whales. And there's a place in Newport, Rhode Island, called Cold Fusion, which has the best gelato I've had on this side of the Atlantic. It's seriously up in the air whether or not the gelato I had in Italy was better because I was eating it in Italy.

Plus I'm moving to a new grade level this year. And a new building. So there's the prep for that. Plus lots of training on the new Common Core curricula for ELA and math. Busy, busy, busy.

I do have several recipes on the back burner, and though it sounds counter-intuitive, once school starts and I can get myself back into a regular routine, the tasty things will return. Promise.

In the meantime, I offer you this Buzzfeed article in which you can drool over lots of frosting being swiped, piped, drizzled, and poured over myriad confections.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sweet Cherry Crisp

If strawberries herald in the start of summer around here, nothing says midsummer to me like a bowl full of cherries.

Sweet cherries, to be precise.

Often, dessert recipes that call for cherries mean sour cherries, like what I'd use to make a delicious tart cherry pie. But sweet cherries deserve their due. They're really good for you, and don't require as much sugar as sour cherries do.

I found this recipe for cherry crisp in the Reader's Digest Fight Back With Food recipe book, and with a little tweaking, I made it my own.

Here's how.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ginger Ice Cream

As the Northeast is in the grip of a 90+ degree heatwave (I think we're on day 5 of above 90 degree temps?), I decided it was a great time for an ice cream post.

Ginger ice cream, to be precise.

Remember the peach ice cream I made last summer? This is basically the same recipe from The Savannah Cookbook, except with ginger instead of peaches.

Because you can get the full recipe for making the custard from the peach ice cream post, I won't go through it here. Everything is done exactly the same until you get to the point where you add the flavors. After mixing the cooked custard with the whole milk, you just mix in a very generous 3/4 cup of chopped crystallized ginger and about  a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger. Tip: fresh ginger is easier to grate if you freeze it first. Mine wasn't quite frozen so I got a bit of a juicy mess. Still tasted good though.

Another tip I discovered this time around. The recipe in the cookbook says to scald the cream and vanilla in the top of your double boiler over direct heat. I never really like this step, I didn't feel it worked well.  But since you really do need to use a double boiler to get the custard to cook right, I just switched it up a bit. I scalded the cream in a regular 1-quart saucepan, stirred in the sugar, beat the egg yolks in the top of the double boiler (off heat). Then I beat a cup of the cream mixture into the eggs and put the double boiler top over simmering water to complete the process. Worked great. No pictures, unfortunately, since I was too busy whisking away.

Incidentally, this ice cream is a delightful accompaniment to raspberry pie. Just in case you wanted a pairing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Bites

Here's an easy, quick recipe you can put together and serve in about a half hour or so, start to finish. It beats commercially made, frozen chicken nuggets hands down. I adapted it from the "Crunchy Whole-Grain Chicken Bites" recipe from The Pampered Chef's 29 Minutes to Dinner recipe book. Mostly because I didn't have any whole-grain chips (meaning Sun-Chips) or ranch dressing mix.

Of course, if you're not a fan of buffalo sauce, you can always leave the chicken bites plain and serve with your family's favorite dipping sauces.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Strawberry Jam

Around here, you always know summer's on the way when the first of the local strawberries start showing up at the Farmer's Market and at the local farm stands. I'm a big fan of strawberries - they've been my favorite berry since I was a little girl. And I love turning them into delicious strawberry jam!

When people find out I can, they always ask if it's hard. The answer, in a nutshell, is no. But it is time consuming, and you have to have the right equipment. I personally stand by the Ball Canning guides and equipment, mostly because the directions are straightforward and the equipment is easy to use.

My husband bought me my canning equipment for Christmas a couple years ago. Seriously one of the best gifts he's ever given me. You can find canning equipment, Ball or otherwise, in many stores, including Walmart. I recommend the Ball Enamel Waterbath Canner Kit, because it has everything you need to get started, and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, because the directions and recipes are very easy to follow.

A note about preserving - it's a great way to store fresh produce for a taste of summer all year round. But if you plan to preserve vegetables and meat you really need to have a pressure canner. Waterbath canners just can't meet the correct processing heats necessary to prevent botulism. And nobody wants that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake from Pampered Chef

I really need to stop buying cookbooks that involve amazing dessert recipes. Really. It's becoming an addiction.

A couple months ago, I acquired a Pampered Chef recipe book that's nothing but chocolate. In fact, it's actually called Chocolate. And it has an unbelievable recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that was described by several people as "eating chocolate frosting," or just "OMG!"

For finishing you can add chopped pistachios around the outside edge and chocolate curls to the top. But I didn't. It was still awesome.

I really splurged a bit on the chocolate for this one.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mango Lassi

Holy smokes, it's almost the end of June already, isn't it?  Well, as usually happens, I've fallen a bit off the "maintain real life and also your interwebz presence" during these last couple weeks of school. But I do have a very easy recipe to share on this first day of summer - and my first official day of summer vacation!

I first tasted mango lassi when the hubs and I were on vacation over April break. We went to an Indian restaurant in Flagstaff, and I thought this would be an interesting drink to try. Absolutely awesome. After some searching, I found a recipe that, turns out, tastes almost exactly like the one I had in Arizona. There's probably some secret ingredient the folks in Flagstaff included, but this was darn close!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mexican Grilled Chicken with Spicy Black Beans & Rice

This past week, the thermometer decided to test the "above 90 degrees" thing, which meant by Saturday I was in no mood to heat up the kitchen in order to provide dinner.

Thankfully, we got our grill working.

This recipe was so easy, I'm a little surprised I hadn't figured it out before this.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken

You know how sometimes you have stuff sort of sitting in your fridge because you bought it on sale, or for a different recipe, and now you're just not sure what to do with it?  I had that happen a few months ago with baby spinach and crumbled feta cheese.

A couple of Google searches later, I came across a recipe from for an easy spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast, and thought I'd give it a whirl, and my own small twists.

Ready to see how it's done?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Healthiest Cookies in the World

You know that Pinterest thing? How it sucks you in and you end up pinning directions for how to make your own soap and ten thousand recipes for cookies that you'll probably never have time to make?

I stumbled across the recipe for two-ingredient cookies several months ago, and I finally found time to make some this weekend.  I kid you not - Lauren over at The Burlap Bag has a recipe for oatmeal cookies that has two ingredients as the base of the cookie. Bananas and oats. And then you add whatever mix-ins you like and chow down with very little guilt. Especially if you go the raisin route for your mix-in.

When these cookies were all said and done, they had a very chewy consistency, and a taste similar to banana bread. I also added cinnamon for flavoring, because I'm not a big enough fan of bananas by themselves.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quinoa & Black Beans

I discovered the awesomeness of quinoa several months ago, after hemming and hawing for a while about whether or not it was worth trying. I'm so glad I did.  By itself, quinoa is rather unassuming. I think it has a bit of a nutty flavor, but it's not particularly strong. Quinoa is a type of grain that's naturally gluten-free, so this is excellent for people with gluten intolerance or who are trying to reduce their intake of gluten.

In my TurboFire recipe book, one of the recipes calls for a side of quinoa and black beans. I decided to alter the recipe for the side dish just a little, and I think it works well. It's great with fish.

It's ridiculously easy, and there are probably a dozen ways you could change even this basic recipe up to suit your individual tastes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Korean-Style Beef Bowl from Pampered Chef

I'm a big fan of stir fry style foods, mostly because they tend to be healthy, quick, and relatively easy to put together.  Cook up some meat, add some veggies, throw on a tasty sauce, put it all over some steamed rice, and often in less than 45 minutes (less if you plan ahead and cut everything up the day before). I usually end up doing some type of stir fry dinner once a week on average, and it usually tends to be chicken. But sometimes I mix it up.

Last year, I acquired a copy of the Pampered Chef 29 Minutes to Dinner recipe book, and have since bought the second and third volumes, and there's a pretty excellent recipe for a Korean-style beef bowl.  I gave it a whirl a while back.

I deviated a little bit from the recipe to accommodate the available ingredients, but that's one of the nice things about a stir fry dish - you can adjust to your likes and whatever happens to be in the fridge at the time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Stout Cake from Smitten Kitchen

I'd had my eye on a couple recipes for a chocolate stout cake for a while.  I wanted to make something like this for St. Patrick's Day, but the timing has never been right.  But this year, we ended up celebrating my cousin's birthday on St. Patrick's Day, so I whipped up this decadent treat for the occasion.

After perusing the different recipes I'd uncovered over the past couple years, I settled on the version from Smitten Kitchen.  From the reactions of everyone involved in tasting this cake, I think it's a keeper.

My husband particularly liked the ganache.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Almond Joyfuls

I had wanted to play around with a coconut and almond flavored recipe for a while, since I still had a lot of toasted coconut saved up from the Coconut Chick Cupcakes I made last April (don't worry, it was stored in an airtight container!).  And they really do taste like Almond Joy candy bars!

Basically all I did was take the Coconut Macaroons recipe from The Cookie & Biscuit Bible and change up a few minor things, like using toasted coconut instead of unsweetened coconut flakes, and substituting almond extract for vanilla.

Oh, and adding the chocolate, of course.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake

There are many variations of cheesy chicken and broccoli casseroles out there, and I admit to researching said recipes in developing my own.  What I came up with is incredibly easy and very filling, especially on a cold, late winter day.  What my husband particularly liked was that the broccoli retained some of its crunchy texture, since I used raw broccoli rather than steamed.

While I specifically cooked some chicken to use when I made this recipe, it's a great way to use up leftover chicken (or even turkey!), since you only need about two cups at most.  Obviously, the more chicken and broccoli you use, the more people you can serve.  This recipe was enough for two people for dinner.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fresh Lemon & Rosemary Tilapia (Meat-Free for Lenten Fridays)

This recipe started off as an experiment in making lemon pepper tilapia after discovering that *gasp* I had no lemon pepper seasoning mix in the house.  So I started playing around and came up with something even better!

Aside from being meat-free and super simple, there's no salt at all in this recipe, so it's even healthier for you.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Honey & Yogurt Blueberry Muffins

As we hunkered down last night during the worst of Winter Storm Nemo (the storm dropped about 6 inches on us, which honestly isn't that big of a deal considering that we got almost three times that during Monday's lake effect storm), I decided I should start our Saturday with muffins.

I read somewhere that muffins are just an excuse to have cupcakes for breakfast.  But these are pretty healthy.

The original recipe from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible didn't call for the blueberries, but I have a couple quarts still frozen from this summer and decided they'd be a welcome addition.  I also upped the amount of nutmeg in the recipe and used all lemon juice instead of juice and zest.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes (Cupcake of the Month #13)

Cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies are both wonderful things.  They become truly excellent when combined.

Yes, that's a little itty bitty cookie on top of that frosting.  And there's a surprise inside, too.

This was a truly multi-step cupcake, as you have to not only make the cake batter, but also the cookie dough and the vanilla frosting.  And I have to tell you something up front about the cookies: the recipe lies.  10 minutes is way too long to bake the little 1 and 1/2 inch cookies.  Mine were close to burned and nearly inedible.  I'd say 5-6 minutes is more on the mark.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Avocado Quesadillas

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with avocados.  I think they're interesting, and I know they're very good for you.  But I have a hard time just eating avocado.  They really don't have a particularly strong flavor, at least not the ones I've encountered.  Some people profess to just sprinkling a bit of salt and/or lemon juice over half an avocado and eating straight from the skin with a spoon.

I need to doctor up my avocados.

These avocado quesadillas are easy and quick, and you can adjust the heat level to make it as mild or as spicy as you like.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tex-Mex Venison Chili

Winter has returned to the Northeast, and it's great weather for hot and spicy foods like chili.

Our neighbor across the street was kind enough to give us some venison (neatly sealed in airtight packages), but having had no experience up to this point with cooking this particular meat, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do with it.  I figured my best bet would be to start with something simple using the ground venison.

I decided on chili.  And since I had a package of McCormick's Tex-Mex chili seasoning (which appears to be a relatively new product), I thought I'd give it a go.

Unfortunately, I have no in-process pictures, because I'd been home sick from work for a day and a half and really didn't feel like doing much fussing with the camera.  My only goal was to feed my husband.

I made this batch the "old fashioned" way on the stove, but it would easily translate to a slow cooker.  It's also really low in calories - a 1 cup serving has about 140 calories.  Plus, venison is a really lean meat.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

TurboFire Chicken Cacciatore

People seem to love slow cooker meals.  I do too.  Relatively little prep work, easy clean up - especially if your slow cooker has a removable insert that you can put in the dishwasher - and your house smells great all day.

Here's a great, healthy chicken cacciatore recipe from the TurboFire cookbook that went over well with my family.  I did some adjustments to meet my taste preferences from the original recipe. Here's what I did.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gilded Irish Coffee Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream (Cupcake of the Month #12)

So I got a bit behind with non-Christmas baking over the last couple weeks, but I finally found time this evening to make the final 2012 Cupcake of the Month.

Ain't it pretty?  Plus, it marks

Teacher, Baker, Gourmet Meal Maker's 100th Post!

It's an Irish coffee mini cupcake, topped with brown sugar meringue buttercream and "gilded" with festive gold sugar sprinkles (because I could find neither gold luster dust or sanding sugar).

It's quite a finish for the 2012 Cupcake of the Month series - but never fear, cupcake fans!  My mom got me the 2013 Martha Stewart Cupcake calendar, so there are more cupcakes on the way. Perhaps not one every month, but they'll make an appearance every so often. Promise.