Archive for the ‘Our Favorite Recipes’ Category

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Topping

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Pecan Topping

Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Pecan Topping

Looking for a tasty, healtier alternative to mashed potatoes?  My mashed sweet potatoes are sweet, crunchy, creamy – just delicious.  They work well with most of your summer time staples…hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken – the list goes on and on. 

A tip to make this recipe even easier is to buy the pre-wrapped sweet potatoes that you microwave. There is no need to remove the wrapping, pierce or wash – just throw them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes.  For this recipe I microwaved 4 at a time.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove them from the microwave and let them cool; you want them cool to the touch so you can remove the inside goodness from the skin.  Once they are cooled, slice them in half and spoon out the inside into a baking dish and mash them with a potato masher.

Mash the Sweet Potatoes With a Potato Masher

Mash the Sweet Potatoes With a Potato Masher

This recipe is not only simple, it is nutritious.  Sweet potatoes packed with vitamin A, they are also a great source of vitamin C, iron, calcium and fiber.  The recipe does, however, contain a good amount of sugar and fat in it.  But don’t worry – if you are cooking for someone on a special diet it is easy to adjust this recipe. I was cooking for my mother, so I adjusted a portion of the recipe to suit her diet; I used less of the topping (contains brown sugar and butter) on her portion.  Sweet potatoes are a good option for diabetics as they have the lowest glycemic index rating amongst all root vegetables.

If you wanted to adjust the sugar content even further to make a diabetic friendly version, I would suggest eliminating the brown sugar completely from the topping and replacing the maple syrup with sugar-free syrup.  Sweet Potatoes are naturally sweet so they don’t need much help.

I tried both the full fat, full sugar version and the trimmed version and I must say – they were both excellent.

Ingredients:

Topping:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, I use the Pecan Pie glazed Pecans by Emerald Nuts
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

The Rest:

  • 6 prewrapped microwavable sweet potatoes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1.) Mix the brown sugar, pecans and butter in small bowl. Set aside – preferably in the fridge to chill.

2.) Prepare a glass baking dish with butter. I simply put a bit of butter on a paper towel and wipe. You could even substitute canola oil as well.

3.) Cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave. Remember, you have to pierce sweet potatoes before putting them in the microwave unless you buy the pre-wrapped microwaveable sweet potatoes. Cook on high for about 8-10 minutes until tender to the touch. Let cool.

4.) Once your sweet potatoes are cool, place them in a dish and mash with a potato masher.

5.) Beat eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and salt in large bowl. Mix in the mashed sweet potatoes.

6.) Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle pecan topping evenly over mixture.

7.) Bake until sweet potato mixture is set and the pecan topping bubbles, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes and serve.

My Favorite Tomato Bruschetta

Saturday, June 13th, 2009
Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta

A tomato and basil bruschetta is a classic combination. It’s simple, it’s rustic – it’s delicious.  Bruschetta is a good starter to any meal.

The key to good bruschetta is a good quality baguette.  Even when you want to save time, please don’t be tempted to by the pre-cut, pre-made crostini – they are almost always stale.  Buy a baguette and slice and toast it at home. Ciabatta can also work for your bruschetta.  Here is my favorite variation – Tomato Bruschetta.

Ingredients:

  • Baguette or crusty long loaf bread, sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, 2 minced, 1 set aside
  • Pint of tomatoes, halved, seeded and chopped ( I used a variety pack for more color)
  • Good handful of fresh basil leaves (about 1/3 cup)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling  
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.) Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Brush a bit of olive oil on each slice. Toast in oven for about 3-5 minutes or until light golden brown. After the bread is removed from the oven, rub a sliced clove of garlic on the toasted side of each slice of bread. Set bread aside.

3.) Place the seeded and chopped tomatoes in a bowl, add the minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, a good drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Use a good quality, coarse salt – a kosher or even better, maldon sea salt. It does wonders for the tomatoes.

4.) Pile basil leaves on top of one another and roll into a log. Thinly slice basil into green confetti and loosely combine with the tomato mixture.

5.) Gently combine all of the ingredients. Place your toasts around the bowl of tomato topping. Place a spoon to scoop topping in bowl and serve.

The Best Guacamole…seriously

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
 
 
 
 
 

 

Our Favorite Guacamole

Our Favorite Guacamole

I’m nervous – confused – my palms are sweaty.  Ok, maybe my palms aren’t sweaty, but I am still asking myself  ”are you sure you want to do this?”

(time lapse 10 minutes ahead)

Alright fine – I will share (give up) one of my best recipes.  It’s not like I am the only person in the world that makes good guacamole.  It just so happens that I think mine is the best. 

What’s my secret?  Perhaps it’s the red onion, or the mayonnaise or maybe the salt?  People always say that red onion has a mild, sweet flavor – I think it has a strong flavor – which adds something special to this guacamole.   The salt you use is also very important.  I love experimenting with different salts in my guacamole – salt compliments avocados so well.  To add a bit of creaminess to the guacamole I use the mayonnaise.  Sounds odd, but works so well.

This recipe will serve two or three people who really love guacamole.  Adjust accordingly to how much you will need. 

guacamole-ingredients

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • ½ of a lime, juiced
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1/8 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cilantro, chopped
  • good pinch of your favorite salt – I like fleur de sel in this recipe.
  • dash of Tabasco

Directions:

1.) Prep your ingredients before cutting into your avocado. The avocado can go brown very quickly without the help of the lime.

2.) Once you are prepped – place the avocado, lime juice, tomato, red onion, mayonnaise, salt and Tabasco in a large bowl.

3.) Using the back of a fork, mash all of the ingredients together until you get the consistency that you prefer. Some people like smooth, others a bit chunky. Myself, I prefer a bit chunky.

4.) Finally, fold in the cilantro – trying not to bruise the leaves too much.|

5.) Place plastic wrap over the guacamole – so that is actually touching the surface of the guacamole and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. After the guacamole has sat for an hour – go ahead and eat!

Marshmallow Fondant & a 21st Birthday Cake

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Autumn's 21st Birthday Cake with Marshmallow Fondant

Autumn's 21st Birthday Cake with Marshmallow Fondant

My friend violet called me with a quick birthday cake request over the Memorial Day weekend.  As I see it, I was already going to spend the weekend baking what was one more cake?  Her niece Autumn, was turning 21 and needed something girly to commemorate this special birthday.  Autumn wanted a marble cake with white buttercream…simple and to the point.

I dressed the ¼ sheet cake with pink, green and gray accents, and of course a cosmopolitan martini.  Up until recently I have been buying Wilton Fondant to decorate cakes with.  This time around I used a homemade marshmallow fondant and love it!  It’s quick and easy, plus has a much more palatable taste…give it a try!

Marshmallow Fondant

What You’ll Need: 

  • 1 bag of white marshmallows (8 oz)
  • Water (2 tbsp)
  • Icing sugar sifted (1 to 2 pounds)
  • Crisco
  • Heatproof bowl
  • Spoon
  • Sifter
  • Food colors or cocoa powder
  • Flavoring optional

Directions:

1.) Heat marshmallows and water in microwave for 2 minutes.

2.) Remove and stir with Crisco greased spoon.

3.) Add desired color and or flavoring.

4.) Stir in sifted powdered sugar until it looks dough-like.

5.) Turn fondant out onto powder sugared work surface and knead until well mixed and not too sticky.

Note: Use this marshmallow fondant right away or rub with a bit of Crisco and store in air tight container.

Chocolate Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Frosting

Monday, May 25th, 2009
Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing

Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Some think Memorial Day Weekend is time to relax, I feel the opposite.  No rest for the Cake Lady!  Grandma Marion is turning 87!  Holy Moley!  My family and I spent our relaxing Sunday celebrating Grandma’s birthday and putting in my mother’s garden. 

I love Sunday’s at my parent’s house, they just feel good.  Growing up, my sister and I spent every Sunday at my mom’s parent’s house swimming with our cousins and then having a huge feast towards the end of the day.  Thinking about it brings a smile to my face. 

Another thing that brings a smile to my face is Grandma Marion.  Chocolate is the way to her heart so I baked her some extra large chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…YUM!  Once again, Ina Garten provided me with a great recipe which I swear by – Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

The cake comes out just the right, great texture and the perfect amount of chocolate.  Cream Cheese Frosting, who doesn’t like that?  Simple and easy, plus it compliments the chocolate oh so well. These chocolate cupcakes are sure to be crowd pleasers.

More Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

More Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 8oz. package of cream cheese (not whipped)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 8oz. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

 1.) Make sure cream cheese and butter are room temperature. Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add vanilla, blend. 

2.) Slowly add powdered sugar and blend until smooth.  Quick note; this is not a stiff frosting and does not pipe well.  I use this frosting for cupcakes and simple cakes…Tastes great!

The Perfect Mojito

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
The Perfect Mojito - It's Classic

The Perfect Mojito - It's Classic

Joe and I are headed to the Florida Keys on Saturday for some much needed R&R.  This has me thinking of the hot sand, fresh seafood and fruity cocktails.  This brings me to the perfect summer cocktail – the Mojito.  Say it with me now – “moe-hee-toe”.   It just sounds like summer, doesn’t it?

Traditionally made with just five ingredients – white rum, sugar cane juice, lime, carbonated water and mint – the Mojito has spawned many variations.  Some better than others…the best being the classic.

I’ve had my share of Mojitos – who hasn’t?  Mojitos on the beach, Mojitos from the local bar, Mojitos from my favorite restaurants, even Mojitos from chain restaurants -which I should add, are usually not “Mojitos”.   The best being the one that takes just a little too long to prepare.  “Hey, where’s my drink?”

Any Mojito fan knows that it takes time and good old fashioned elbow grease to properly muddle the lime, sugar syrup and mint. 

So what is muddling anyways?  Muddling is a somewhat gentle but thorough mashing or bruising of the mint with the sugar and lime at the bottom of a glass.  Muddling helps to release the juice and the essential oils in the mint.  The mint adds a nice cooling sensation on your tongue.  It really is a lovely combination – so refreshing.

So, start your weekend off right – here’s to the Classic Mojito!

The Classic Cuban Mojito

Glass: Highball
Garnish: Mint

  • 1 ½ oz. Cuban Rum
  • 1 oz. Lime Juice
  • ½ oz. Sugar Syrup
  • 8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Top with Club Soda

Directions:

1.) Start by muddling the mint leaves, sugar syrup and lime in the base of your glass.  Not sure how to muddle?  Click here for a muddling demonstration

2.) Fill your glass with ice, add your rum, and then top off with club soda. Stir and enjoy.

Grandma Garretson’s Chocolate Cake

Friday, May 8th, 2009
Grandma Garretson's Chocolate Cake in Cupcake Form

Grandma Garretson's Chocolate Cake in Cupcake Form

I love receiving recipes – so of course, I was pleasantly surprised when my sister in law, Geri, sent me the recipe for her grandmother’s chocolate cake. 

My sister came over to help me prepare the cake – we decided to make an evening out of it.  We called this evening a  ”study in gum paste” since we were going to decorate the cupcakes with gum paste flowers. 

The evening started with a quick trip to the local Hobby Lobby for gum paste making tools.  Cupcake wrappers, gum paste mix, gel food coloring, and a set of gum paste tools and we were out the door.  I already had the gum paste flower cutters from a previous occasion.

Then, off to the local grocery store for snacks and wine – yes, I did mention we made an evening out of it ;-)

Wine of the Evening - Oberon

Wine of the Evening - Oberon

Once we were home, Jody began preparing the cake batter, which we must note, turned out very thick – almost similar to a brownie batter.  We decided to do cupcakes instead of cake, since cupcakes are so much cuter.   

Very Thick Chocolate Cake Batter

Very Thick Chocolate Cake Batter

We smoothed the batter out with a spatula – then into the oven.  At that point, I was already working on mixing up the gum paste.  I have worked with gum paste in the past, but had forgotten how labor intensive it really was.  We dyed it four colors with the gel food coloring – green, two shades of blue and an orangey-yellow. 

Colored Gum Paste

Colored Gum Paste

Jody then prepared the icing for the chocolate cupcakes that were now cooling on the stove.  This icing comes out very shiny – similar to a ganache.  The end result is a very delicate looking cupcake.    The chocolate cupcake was very chocolatey and very tasty, and suprisingly moist for how thick the batter was.  If you are a chocolate lover, these are for you.

Overall, we found that working with the gum paste was harder than we expected…but as you can see from the photos – they were adorable.  I have a new appreciation for gum paste or sugar flowers – it truly is an artform.

Thanks again Geri for sending me this recipe – we are sure it will be enjoyed by many.

Gum Paste Flowers on Chocolate Cupcakes

Gum Paste Flowers on Chocolate Cupcakes

Grandma Garretson’s Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. boiling water
  • 1 cup cocoa

Directions: 

1.) Mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until blended.

2.) Add flour, buttermilk, soda and salt. Mix well.

3.) Combine the boiling water and cocoa in a separate bowl. Add to large bowl and mix.

4.) Spoon cake batter into cake pans. Cake batter with be thick, so you will need to smooth it out with a spatula.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick comes out clean in center. For cupcakes, our cook time was about 15  – 18 minutes.

Chocolate Icing
Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa

Directions:

1.) Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.

2.) Place on med heat until it comes to a boil. Let boil for one minute.

3.) Spread on top of warm cake.  Decorate how you like.  Enjoy!

Our Cute Flowered Cupcakes

Our Cute Flowered Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

Friday, May 1st, 2009

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes

You’ve heard the expression, “everything is better with bacon” – well, who knew that this included cupcakes.  Frankly, I don’t believe I have ever met a person who can resist the magical powers of bacon.  The scent, the flavor, just thinking about bacon makes my mouth water.  It’s funny how bacon plays well with so many other flavors and types of foods. Bacon can instantly take the everyday sandwich or salad to a new level.  Bacon wrapped steak, scallops, chicken livers, or dates…the possibilities seem to be endless.

Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel did a episode on Portland, Oregon.  Voodoo Doughnut was a strange local shop that specialized in unique donuts, one being a maple cream stick with crisp bacon.  This is where the idea of the French Toast and Bacon Cupcake was born.  Savory and sweet work so well together, and since I already drown my bacon in maple syrup, why not?  Cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit more vanilla are the key extras in this yellow cake recipe that give it a French Toast feel.  I should note, these cupcakes smell amazing while baking!

I whipped up a Maple Buttercream to frost them with and finished them with the crown jewel…crispy bacon.  For aesthetics I left the bacon in one piece, but would prefer it crumbled for easy eating!  Enjoy!

French Toast Cupcakes

What You’ll Need:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 ½  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • Maple Buttercream Frosting, recipe follows
  • Crisp Bacon
  • Equipment: A six cup jumbo muffin pan or 12 cup regular muffin pan
French Toast and Bacon Cupcake Ingredients

French Toast and Bacon Cupcake Ingredients

Directions:

1.) Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line the muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

2.) In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Raise the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula.)

3.) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla, and also set aside.

4.) Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter one at time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before adding the next.

5.) Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Alternately, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next (scrape the bowl down occasionally). Raise the speed to medium and mix briefly until a smooth batter is formed. Transfer the batter to a large bowl.

6.) Thoroughly clean the bowl of the mixer and put the egg whites inside. Whip the egg whites on high speed, using the whisk attachment, until stiff peaks are formed.

7.) Working in 3 batches, using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter, until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the cups in the muffin pan. Bake, rotating the pan once, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

8.) Remove the cupcakes  from the oven and cool completely.

Maple Buttercream Frosting
Yield: about 1 2/3 cups, enough for 6 large or 12 regular cupcakes

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon maple extract

Directions:

1.) In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.)

2.) Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the heavy cream and maple extract.. Raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Crisp Bacon

Bacon works well for me baked in an oven at 425 degrees on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake 12-15 minutes, drain grease, and bake another 5-7 minutes or until crisp.  You can do it in a pan as well.

Finally – Frost the cooled French Toast Cupcakes with the Maple Buttercream Frosting and top with a Crisp piece of Bacon!

Inside of a French Toast and Bacon Cupcake

Inside of a French Toast and Bacon Cupcake

“Have It Your Way” Stir Fry

Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Stir Fry with Chicken, Shrimp, Filet & Veggies.

Stir Fry with Chicken, Shrimp, Filet & Veggies.

If you are looking for a healthy recipe that can be modified to your taste- stir fry is for you. It is hard to mess up a stir fry – overcooking the vegetables, sure… but changing the amounts of any one ingredient will not make that much of a difference.  In fact, it’s probably better if you tweak the ingredients to suit your taste

My mother sent me her stir fry “recipe” – more like a long paragraph with tips on how she makes her stir fry rather than an actual recipe.  She stresses the “use what you like” concept, along with some basic sound stir fry principles.  Prep everything ahead of time; use a heavy, large pan; don’t overcook the vegetables; pick a sauce you like.  Her “recipe” has no accurate measurements just approximations, so experiment.  If you like more garlic, add more. If you go crazy for Bok Choy, go for it.  You like mushrooms, go bananas…you get the picture. 

It is made different every time, and it is probably important to say that it comes out good every time.  Remember, don’t get hung up on the measurements – do what feels right and follow the basic principles and I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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Time to Break Out the Charcoal Grill!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Two Chimney Starters are Better Than One!

Two Chimney Starters are Better Than One!

I am looking out my window today and what a dreary day it is.  Why can’t every day be cook out weather

We had great weather this past weekend – perfect  for a few Corona’s and the Weber.   Ahh…the beauty of the charcoal grill.  My husband loves his Weber, he prefers it to a gas grill any day.   Most people say that it takes too long to get the coals hot enough – those people have probably never used a chimney starter.  Chimney starters eliminate the need for of lighter fluid which can taint the flavor of foods, they also get your coals extremely hot, quickly! 

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