Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Italian Turkey Meatballs

This is a recipe that has become a fall back in our house. It is a quick, clean, and healthy option for a weekday dinner. You can use ground beef for the recipe, but I actually prefer the ground turkey as the meatballs come out moist on the inside and lightly browned on the out.


Italian Turkey Meatballs

1/2 small yellow onion
1 and 1/4 pound ground turkey meat
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp basil
1 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and mix till well combined. I use my hands to mix as nothing else seems to do as good of a job. Roll mixed meat into heaping one inch balls and bake for 30 minutes.

If serving with marinara, place meatballs in skillet with enough sauce to cover meatballs and heat for 10-12 minutes over medium heat.


I serve the meatballs with a red marinara sauce over my favorite whole-wheat pasta topped with freshly grated parmesan. Speaking of freshly grated parmesan, its hard to admit, but up until now I have used the grated parmesan in a jar. I know, don't hate me, it was just easy. There is such a difference and I promise from now on to always use freshly grated parmesan!



Does anyone own one of those rotary cheese graters? I am trying to figure out if it is worth the investment and if it really works that much better than a regular box grater.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Strawberries and Cream Muffins


This morning I got up, like most weekend mornings, wishing I had made some fabulous dough the previous night to make fresh cinnamon rolls or croissants this morning. Nope, I didn't. So I asked my husband, muffins or scones? Already knowing the answer, he said muffins and my mind starting working. I knew we had no blueberries or bananas, but we did have strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries! They are my favorite fruit, so in the summer there are always strawberries in our fridge.



Strawberries and Cream Muffins

Streusel Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp firm butter

Muffins
3/4 cup milk
1/4 vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup strawberries, cut into small chunks

Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 egg (about 2 tbsp beaten)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pan with baking cups or grease thoroughly. To prepare filling combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix till smooth. Set filling aside. Combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon for streusel topping, then cut in butter using 2 forks or pastry cutter and combine till coarse crumbs. Set streusel topping aside. Whisk together milk, oil, and egg for muffin mixture, then add in all flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt only till moistened. The mixture will be lumpy.

Spoon in one tablespoon of muffin mixture into each cup, then top with half the chunked strawberries, and a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture. Spoon remaining muffin mixture into each cup, top with remaining strawberries, and sprinkle streusel topping. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and serve warm.



These muffins really hit the spot this morning, they were crumbly and crunchy in all the right places. The strawberries slightly cooked and almost tasted like a strawberry jam and the smooth cream cheese filling was just enough sweet in the muffins. I am thinking this would be a good combination for a braided bread. Does anyone have a good recipe for a braided bread?


Recipe was adapted from Betty Crocker's Blueberry Muffin recipe.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fruit and Walnut Chicken Salad

This is the staple for lunches in our house. We tend to buy a ton of chicken when it goes on sale and then boil it up and make chicken salad for an army. Not really an army, just enough to bring to lunch, a lot.


I think everyone has a generic chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad (yuck) recipe, but I feel that this one gets better every time I make it. You can vary the recipe by putting whatever fruit, nut, or dressing you like. Sorry for the lack of pictures, all I had on me was my iPhone!


Fruit and Walnut Chicken Salad

4 cups chicken, cooked and cubed (or turkey)
1 cup walnuts (or pecans, almonds...)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced fruit (apples, grapes, cranberries, raisins...)
2/3 cup mayonnaise 
3 tbsp creamy vinaigrette
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients, except diced fruit, until well combined. Next add in fruit and stir gently as to not crush fruit, especially when using grapes. Serve over a bed of spring lettuce, in a pita, on toast, on a bun, or just eat it with a fork! 

Off topic, to all you food bloggers, do you ever struggle with deciding what to make? 

I have a list in my head, on my google reader, in my email, and on a pad of paper at my desk of all the things that I want to make and blog about. I am so excited about everything that I have a hard time deciding what to make next, so I am thinking of starting a top 100 list. That way I can start crossing items off my checklist. Do any of you have a mental checklist of things you want to accomplish? I would love to hear what's on them and your plan of attack!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lemon Limoncello Bars

We had a fight this morning, the lemon bars and I. They didn't want to come out of the pan with the crust intact. So I will suggest one thing for this recipe that I did not do, please please use parchment paper on the bottom of your baking pan! It will make it so much easier to cut these kick-butt lemon bars into those cute little triangles.


I have to admit that I do not like lemon or lime flavored baked goods, just not my thing. So after making anything citrus flavored my husband has to try it and let me know how they turn out. He was more than thrilled to have to eat a lemon bar with breakfast this morning, so much so that I just had to try a little sugar dusted corner of one. These babies are gooooooood, I would eat more if I didn't make them for Father's Day.


My dad used to take me to this little town of Elsah, Illinois and we would go the town's restaurant and bakery and get some famous black-bottom pie and he would get lemon bars to go. Unfortunately this bakery closed after the floods in 1993, but I was lucky enough to score their cookbook on ebay, The Elsah Landing Cookbook. Unfortunately, again, the lemon bar recipe didn't make the cut for the cookbook! So I searched for a recipe similar to what I can remember as a kid. I found Smitten Kitchen's version of Barefoot Contessa's recipe and it sounded like a match, plus I added a little limoncello to mix it up. So Happy Father's Day to all you citrus loving dads!


Lemon Limoncello Bars

Crust:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

Lemon Filling:
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 and 1/2 cup granualted sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup limoncello

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. For the crust, cream butter and sugar till smooth. In a separate bowl whisk flour and salt, then add to butter mixture just until combined. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten dough into pan, building up on the edges. Chill if time permits. Bake the crust for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let crust cool on wire rack.

For the filling, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and limoncello. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake for 35 minutes. The filling should be set at this point. Let cool at room temperature, cut, and dust with confections' sugar.


Those poor little abused lemons, skinned and drained.

I let my bars cool to room temperature and then left them in the refrigerator overnight to ease the cutting. If you want to make these without the limoncello, just replace it with additional fresh squeezed lemon juice or you might even try some lime juice. I think this has inspired me for more fruit inspired bar cookies. Anyone have a good Strawberry or Blackberry recipe they want to share?


I was able to use this morning's natural sunlight to take pictures instead of the usual late night ugly kitchen lighting. I think they turned out a bit better. I appreciate all the tips that everyone has offered towards making better photos, please keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stuffed Poblano Peppers and Avocado Corn Salad

Do you need some spice in your life? Have you been craving good Tex-Mex? Well then come on down, or just keep reading!



This recipe involves a bit of prep time, so if you have someone that you can recruit as your sous chef make whatever agreements you have to, because there is a lot of dicing! It is all worth it in the end, the flavors in the dish really stand out and make you proud of all the hard work you put into it. Isn't that what it is all about?

This recipe is courtesy of Ashlee at A Year in the Kitchen. She is wonderful and has really introduced some new flavors into my meal plans. I was a little nervous at first never having poblano peppers before, but they were the perfect amount of spice. My husband didn't even realize this was a vegetarian dish till I told him how healthy it was! He then of course recommended we add some beef or shredded chicken next time, sigh.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers and Avocado Corn Salad

Poblanos:
4 Poblano Peppers, 3 split and gutted, 1 diced
3/4 of a small red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole-wheat quick rice
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
dash hot sauce
dash salt and pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salad:
1 cup corn kernels
1 large avocado, chunked
1/4 of a small red onion
1 tbsp cilantro, minced
1 lime
dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9x13 baking dish place 3 peppers, cut-half facing up, and bake while preparing rice and bean filling. In a large sauce pot over medium heat combine extra-virgin olive oil, diced peppers and onion, and minced garlic. Saute till vegetables are softened then, add chicken stock, tomatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Once boiling add rice and bring back to a boil. Once boiling again set heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove peppers from oven, stir black beans in with rice mixture and spoon into peppers. Sprinkle cheese over each pepper and bake for 10 minutes.

For salad, combine juice and grated zest of lime, diced red onion, corn, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Add in chunked avocado and chill till peppers are ready.


I used four poblano peppers in this recipe, one diced and three to stuff. I would recommend an additional pepper for stuffing, unless your poblanos are jumbo size, because the filling was just overloading my peppers. It may look nicer when plated as well.



The avocado and corn salad really complement the spicy flavors in the pepper dish making this a great hot summer dish. If you have time, I would recommend roasting or grilling the corn and cooling it prior to mixing with the avocado.


Next up on my Tex-Mex list are homemade enchiladas, anyone have a good sauce recipe?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chocolate Marshmallow Whoopie Pies

My first post with the new T1i camera!


Have you ever made something and just know that it doesn't look right? Well in my case it didn't smell right! As I followed the recipe and added the buttermilk, it didn't smell right at all. I realized that in trying to use up ingredients, I grabbed the wrong buttermilk and it was expired, really expired. I know that buttermilk naturally smells a bit more sour but this was wrong, so wrong. For the first time in baking, I started over from scratch.


Now that you are grossed out, I have to say that once completed these were delicious! The chocolate cake cookies were a soft and puffy perfection, they were crumbly like a cake, but solid like a cookie. The icing is the creamiest I have made and really tasted like marshmallow fluff.


Chocolate Marshmallow Whoopie Pies

Cookies:
3 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
7 ounces marshmallow fluff
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, set aside. In stand mixer blend butter and sugar till fluffy, add in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla and buttermilk till incorporated. Slowly add in the dry ingredients only till combined. Using a level cookie scoop drop batter on baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes on baking sheet and cool completely on drying rack.

For filling, beat butter on medium till smooth. Mix in confectioners sugar till combined. Add in vanilla and marshmallow fluff and beat on medium-high for five minutes or until fluffy. Fit pastry bag with large round tip (I used Wilton #12) and fill with icing. After cookies are cooled completely, find some soul-mates, squeeze icing onto one side, and sandwich them together until icing is pushed to the edges.

Thanks to Martha Stewart via Annie's Eats for the recipe.


I also didn't follow Annie's directions by putting two pans in the oven at once, I thought it would bake more evenly if I only put in one pan like normal. But when making cake, you know how you are supposed to mix it right before you put it in the oven, well I think the same goes for this recipe. The last two batches, that sat out for at least 30 minutes, went into the oven and came out flat, so I do recommend using two pans at a time and rotating them halfway through baking. You were right Annie.


I did love this recipe and like the idea of other whoopie pies in the future, what other combos have you made?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Yeah that's right you can eat chocolate in the morning. This coffee cake is amazing, it is a combination of cinnamon toast crunch, a moist yellow cake, and slightly melted chocolate chips. What more can you dream for in a coffee cake, Oh I know, it is also pretty quick and easy to make!


Thanks so much to Smitten Kitchen for this recipe, she is amazing, not only do we share the same name but every time I'm looking for a recipe she has some fun new version of it! Check out the rest of my favorites on my updated links page.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granualted sugar
3 eggs, seperated
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in small bowl and set aside. Cream butter and 1 and 1/2 cups sugar in large bowl, then slowly add in egg yolks and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add sour cream and flour mixture into the butter mixture alternating till completely mixed. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold into batter with spatula.

In a greased 13 x 9 pan pour a little more than half of batter into pan. Sprinkle half of cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of chocolate chips. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Serve warm.


One thing I want to say that I feel is important is... sifting counts! Before I started reading the numerous baking blogs I subscribe to, I never sifted my flour/sugar in recipes. It really does make a difference in the texture of whatever it is your making, this is because it removes all lumps and allows the wet ingredients to combine better with the flour/sugar that you are sifting. You also want to measure after you sift because the ingredients will measure differently, unless your recipes are based on weight. I made the mistake of buying a squeeze handle sifter, this worked great for the first few times. Then I couldn't get the darn thing clean, there was flour stuck between the screens and I ended up tossing it out. Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker, Michelle's recommendation I plan on buying this strainer and using it as my sifter before I bake again.

I will be making this cake again, anyone want to come visit so I have an excuse?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

NYC Cupcake Review

My husband and I went to New York last weekend for vacation. We lived in New York for a small time and have really yearned for the variety of good food all over the city. Don't get me wrong, I have had some great Mexican since moving to Texas, but the Italian doesn't compare. The trip was a surprise for my husband's birthday, but I had a small cupcake agenda of my own.

I had a list of cupcake places in my head and we made it to a total of four places, not to mention the wonderful brunch we had at Sarabeth's West and ice cream sundaes at Serendipity 3. First up for cupcakes was Butter Lane, which we hit after going to eat some yummy polish food. We ordered the "Elvis" and an espresso cupcake which was a chocolate cupcake with espresso icing. The Elvis was my favorite cupcake for the trip, it is a banana cupcake with a peanut butter frosting topped with mini-marshmallows. The cupcake was so fresh and simple, you could tell they weren't lying about farm fresh eggs and butter. As soon as you walk in the store you can smell the sugar and can watch them icing cupcakes in the back.


Crumbs My husband's favorite cupcake was their Grasshopper, it was a close first for me too! Their cupcakes were a bit bigger than your normal cupcake size, they even had a Jumbo sized cupcake that looked more like a cake! I have to say that it was hard to decide what to order here because everything looked amazing and tempted my taste buds. The Grasshopper is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge filling and mint cream cheese icing rimmed with mini chocolate chips. I had the Baba Booey which is a chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter icing and topped with a chocolate cream cheese and peanut butter frosting rimmed with mini peanut butter chips. Like I said the Grasshopper was great, same with the Baba Booey, the cake was fresh and the flavor pairings were perfect. If you are an icing hound, there was an ample amount on both cupcakes. Sorry for the lack of pics here, guess we were too excited to stop and photograph!

Eleni's  I hadn't heard of this beautiful cupcake and cookie stop, but found it while shopping around Chelsea Market. We ordered the Reese's and Chocolate Ganache cupcakes and grabbed some fresh milk from Ronnybrook Dairy a few stores down. The Reese's cupcake inspired me to make them at home, it was a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting, but it had Reese's Peanut Butter cup broken up in and on top of the cupcake, yum! The chocolate ganache cupcake was a chocolate cupcake with a ganache filling and a dark chocolate icing. I am glad we got the milk, because the cake in both cupcakes were a little stale, but the icing was the creamiest for the trip and the ganache was a super rich chocolate! The store specializes in beautifully decorated sugar cookies, which I regret we didn't try so I guess we will have to go back!


Magnolia Bakery This was my least favorite stop, I was disappointed after all the hype I had heard. We did go to the Rockefeller Center location (maybe we should have taken the trip to the downtown location) and there was a line around the building. I didn't mind waiting and chatting with the other cupcake goers in line, but as we entered the door we were rushed to order, pay, and get pushed right back out the door. We ordered a classic red velvet with cream cheese icing and a chocolate fudge cupcake with a cream filling and ganache frosting (like a hostess). The cupcakes were yummy, but nothing special that I couldn't make at home. 

With that, I am in no way a cupcake or culinary expert, just someone that enjoys good quality food! What other places have you been in New York that you would like to share?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sausage, Red Bell Pepper, and Gruyere Quiche

I made an awesome brunch last weekend when we had family in town, including this quiche, a coffee cake, hash browns, and some fresh fruit. Brunch is by far my favorite meal, which I believe is attributed to the fact that you can eat two meals worth and its okay to eat sweets in the morning! I don't like making all the noise in the morning that comes with making brunch, but sometimes it is worth it. Luckily this is one of those recipes where you could premix everything and pour it all together in the morning.


Sausage, Red Bell Pepper, and Gruyere Quiche

Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 tbsp cold vegetable shortening
pinch of salt
2 tbsp ice water

Filling:
3/4 pound ground Italian sausage, or turkey sausage
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup freshly grated gruyere cheese
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
1.2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl combine flour, butter, shortening, and pinch of salt with pastry cutter (2 forks work as well) until coarse. Add in ice water and mix till water is incorporated and ball is formed. Pat the dough into an 9-inch tart/pie pan. Bake for 7 minutes or until slightly golden.

In a skillet over high heat cook Italian sausage and red peppers for 7 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink. Drain sausage mix and add in bowl with salt, gruyere, and parmesan. Spread sausage and cheese mixture across the bottom of baked crust. In a bowl whisk together eggs, heavy cream, and milk. Pour over sausage and cheese mixture in crust. Bake for 15 minutes in middle of oven, then without opening door lower heat to 350 and bake for additional 10 minutes. Serve warm.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com


I will tell you that this quiche is so good, I made it twice in one week! The first time I used a pre-made pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan and used egg substitute and turkey sausage. It was good, but I had lots of leftover ingredients so I decided to make it again and the second time I made my own crust in a 9-inch tart pan. This was much better with a buttery taste and flaky texture. Next time I would love to add in some garlic to the sausage mixture and maybe even some diced red potatoes!


I think you will all be excited to hear that I bought a new camera and will hopefully be getting some better pics out there for you. I just have to learn how to work the darn thing, anyone got some food photography tips?
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