Friday, January 28, 2011

snickerdoodle cupcakes

Like any good mom (laugh) I held off on giving Carter any sugar until his first birthday.  For his ridiculously large and over the top first birthday party I ordered cupcakes and a mini 6 inch triple layer personal snickerdoodle cake covered with cream cheese frosting and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.  Carter took a few bites and stuck his fingers in it like any cute little one year old would and then got down from his highchair.  As my family helped me clean up from the party I got to the highchair and took a bite of the tortured cake.  I was in love at first bite.  I called my sister in law over to try and to make a long story short we sat around the highchair and polished off the entire cake.  It was my reward for making it through the first year of parenthood and worth every single delicious calorie.  The entire family was in love with this cake.  A few months later the cake was requested for my brother in laws birthday.  I called the bakery to order and they were out of business.  I knew the owner so, I called her and asked if I could have the recipe.  Apparently this is not something you do because she was totally offended that I even asked.  Soon after Martha came out with her cupcake book and the family was saved because she had a recipe for a snickerdoodle cupcake.  Thank you Martha.  I have made this as a cake and as cupcakes and it is fantastic!  The best thing is you can bake the cupcakes and freeze them and pull one out and frost it when the hankering for a snickerdoodle cupcake hits.  I have not made a lot of cupcake flavors but, thus far this is my favorite hands down. 

snickerdoodle cupcake
source: martha stewart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. sugar + 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with additions of milk, beating until combined after each addition.
4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

1. In a medium bowl, use electric mixer to blend cream cheese and butter. Add sugars, vanilla and ground cinnamon. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Dust cinnamon and sugar mix over frosted cupcakes using sieve.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

zucchini bread

A goal of 2011 was to get back to the basics.  To learn how to cook/bake at the beginning and tackling some of the easy and basic recipes every mom should have in her arsenal.  In almost every cooks kitchen I notice the BHG cookbook.  I think it is one of those cookbooks you get at the beginning of your cooking adventure post college or at the start of your marriage to learn to cook in order to fill the void of your mom, take out, frozen meals or whatever you were living on before you stepped out into your first big girl kitchen. I have had the BHG cookbook for years and have never made a single recipe from it.  I was not interested in cooking at the start of my marriage.  We lived on the handful of things I could make which included black bean soup (from a package), pasta with meat sauce, boboli and crock pot chicken.  Looking back all I can think is GROSS.  Why didn't I try to learn and feed my husband better?  I am not sure when the desire to learn to cook came on but, it is burning in me now and I go to bed thinking about flavors and combinations and techniques.  I am on a quest to learn and tackle my cookbook collection.  My csa box had zucchinis last week so, zucchini bread from BHG seemed like a good starting point.  This is an easy bread with a moist center and slightly crunchy top.  Next time I will double the recipe and freeze a loaf because it was gone in two days.  I should have watched it a bit closer toward the end of the cook time because it finished at the lower end of the suggested time range.

zucchini bread
source: bhg cookbook
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
  • 11/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnut or pecan nuts (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray  a 8"x 4" loaf pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, zucchini, and egg. Add oil and lemon zest; mix well.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and stir.
  4. Fold in the nuts, if using.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

roasted mushrooms and kale over butternut squash puree

When Brad is out of town I miss him BUT I get fairly excited about my dinners because I get to eat things I can't when he is home.  The first night I typically have a big bowl of microwave popcorn with milk duds mixed in and sprinkled with salt.  I know horrible but, I have a movie night with the kids (read fun mom) and I indulge in one of my favorite pregnancy cravings.  After I have had that naughty treat I move onto vegetarian dishes.  My csa box delivered a gorgeous huge butternut squash, shallots and purple kale.  I came up with this following dish which is a spin off of a kale and butternut squash bread pudding I make.  This version takes out the bread and highlights the vegetables.  This was delicious, filling and made a ton!  I had this for the two nights following the popcorn dinner so, kinda makes up the nutritionally void meal nights before.

roasted mushrooms and kale over butternut squash puree
source: sweetflours
  • 1 pound mixed sliced mushrooms (crimini, portobello and shitake)
  • 1 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut butternut squash lengthwise and clean out seeds.  Place squash on jelly roll pan face down with small amount of water. Roast until squash is tender about 45 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool to touch.

On a large baking sheet, dress the mushrooms, garlic, shallots and thyme with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread out. Roast the mushroom mixture for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper.
Scoop out butternut squash into large bowl and either puree or mash depending on consistency desired.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir in the cheddar until melted.

Lower over temp to 375.  Toss the kale with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt. Arrange the kale on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and roast until crisp at the edges, 10-12 minutes.

Combine the mushrooms and the kale and serve on a bed of butternut squash puree.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

apple cinnamon oatmeal

I have always had a severe aversion to cooked fruit.  The issue has always been the goo that typically covers cooked fruit.  I have steered clear from really anything with cooked fruit or fruit in the bottom for years.  When my CSA box started to deliver granny smith apples I needed to come up with ways to use them.  They were too tart for the kids and I could not use them in any recipe which would cover them in syrupy goo. The shinny happy green apples were staring at me from the fruit bowl one morning as I prepared my daily bowl of oats.   The idea to give apple cinnamon oatmeal a whirl came to mind.  The results were delicious.  The apple get soft but, not mushy and the cinnamon and sugar adds a nice amount of spicy sweet.  I have no idea if the ground flax is really adding any huge health benefits but, I know it can't hurt and I really like the nutty undertone it gives to the oats.

apple cinnamon oatmeal

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 granny smith apple; peeled and cubed
1 teaspoons of brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
good sprinkle of ground flax seed meal

Combine the oats, water and almond milk.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator over night.  If you don't have time to do over night then do it in the morning and let it sit.  This allows the oats to soak up the liquid and produce the most voluminous and creamy bowl of oatmeal.  Remove wrap and add chopped apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and flax meal and give a good stir.  Either cook bowl or stove top or put in microwave for ~4 minutes stirring half way through.  Enjoy! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

banana butterscotch snacking cake

Lately I have really been trying to incorporate fruits and vegetables into dishes as many ways as possible.  I know baking one overly ripe banana into a cake does not make it a healthy item but, this is a snacking cake.  When I compare this snack cake to those you find on the grocery store shelves (twinkies, ho-hos, ding dongs) ... you get the picture ... I feel pretty good.  I am trying to move away from processed food (goldfish, bunny crackers and bars) and create items from the kitchen filled with better ingredients and lots of motherly love.  This cake is so easy that both kids helped make it.  I gave one the wet ingredients and the other the dry and we combined and stirred together.  This is a great alternative use for black bananas other then banana bread.  The cake was fluffy, moist and had the perfect amount of banana flavor which was elevated with the sweet pockets of butterscotch.

banana butterscotch snacking cake
adapted: cooking light
  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  plain low-fat banana yogurt
  • 3/4  cup  mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
  • 1/4  cup  canola oil
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2  cup butterscotch chips 
  • cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of flour mixture.
3. Combine yogurt, banana, oil, vanilla, and egg in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Add yogurt mixture to the flour mixture in large bowl, stirring just until moist.  Add chips and give a quick stir to incorporate.
4. Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20-22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with whipped topping.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

smoky beef tacos

I heart Mexican food but,  I have not had much success in making anything that tastes authentic.  I love simple street tacos.  This meat is so simple to make and tastes so good! The ingredients list is short, the prep time is quick but, the cook time is long.  The slow cook gives the dish that flavorful falling apart meat which is worth the wait.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  It is spicy, savory and smoky.  You can adjust the spice by how much chipotle pepper you add.  This meat serves a large crowd and adapts to various toppings.Just thinking about these makes me want to round out my Mexican menu with a few more dishes and have a cinco de mayo gathering this year. 

smoky beef tacos
source: everyday food

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup ketchup
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds), excess fat trimmed
16 corn tortillas (6-inch), lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, stir together chiles, ketchup, 1 cup water, garlic, oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Cut beef into 4 equal pieces. Add to pot, and turn to coat. Cover, and bring to a boil; transfer pot to oven. Bake, covered, until beef is fork-tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Transfer beef to a cutting board. With a large spoon, skim off and discard fat from cooking liquid. Shred beef with two forks; and add back to cooking liquid.  Season with salt and pepper. 
Serve beef with tortillas and desired toppings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

hearty winter vegetable pilaf

I am really digging this healthy eating thing.  I feel better putting good things into my body.  It is amazing.  I have never liked rice.  Because I did not like rice I just assumed I really did not like grains in general.  Then I went through my no carb phase so this dislike of grains was compounded.  Last year I started to experiment with new grains and well wouldn't you know I really like them.  They have such amazing health benefits and they add texture and substance to vegetarian dishes.  Now I am hooked and have a pantry filled with bags of assorted grains.  The harvest grain blend from Trader Joe's inspired this dish which I brought to book club.  This could easily be adapted to liking by using couscous or quinoa.  This is the kind of side dish I want to make at the beginning of the week so, I can just add to my plate as I dish up dinner.  I could not get any of the other mouths in my house to try it but, I have finished off every last grain.
hearty winter vegetable pilaf
source: sweetflours
  • 1 1/4 cups trader joes harvest grain blend (or quinoa/couscous)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oi, divided
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (shiitake, cremini and baby bella)
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced separately
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts, quartered lengthwise 
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Toss quartered brussel sprouts in one tablespoon of olive oil and  season with salt.  Roast brussel sprouts for approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Bring vegetable broth to a boil.  Add harvest grain blend.  Bring back to a boil, reduce to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the scallion whites, walnuts and dried cranberries; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the nuts are light golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Remove brussel sprouts from oven and toss with the mushroom mixture and grains. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add any additional seasoning per taste.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

banana bread oatmeal

People often ask me if I really eat all of the sweets that I make.  The answer is yes.  I do eat them but, I definitely have a sensible portion well unless it is a slice of cake and then I really can't control myself.  I don't know what it is about a slice of cake but, I will not leave a crumb on the plate and I NEVER ask "cut me a small slice"!  That being said I do eat very healthy the majority of the time.  My favorite meal is breakfast and a big part of that is my LOVE for oatmeal.  This love affair has been going on for many years and the hubby often teases me because I have made so many oatmeal creations that I just get hooked on.  I probably have 20 different variations that I cycle through.  I thought that I would share some of these heavenly breakfast bowls.  This is my fall back bowl.  My first love in oatmeal creations and the one I always have all of the components on hand.  I got scared of eating bananas for a small window and I left this breakfast in the dust.  I am no longer scared of the banana. Banana and me have a daily date. 

banana bread oatmeal

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 banana sliced
1 teaspoons of brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
good sprinkle of ground flax seed meal

Combine the oats, water and almond milk.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator over night.  If you don't have time to do over night then do it in the morning and let it sit.  This allows the oats to soak up the liquid and produce the most voluminous and creamy bowl of oatmeal.  Remove wrap and add sliced banana, brown sugar, cinnamon and flax meal and give a good stir.  Either cook bowl or stove top or put in microwave for ~4 minutes stirring half way through.  Enjoy!  This has approximately 300 calories.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

peanut butter cup and pretzel terrine

I must have desert every night.  Both of the kids are very into ice cream right now so, I thought this would be a fun way to use up some of the left over peanut butter cups and pretzels.  Going back to my goal of remembering my palate in this journey I tried to mimic the chubby hubby ingredients which is a favorite of mine.  It only takes minutes to assemble(score!) and actually looks very nice when sliced up.  I would have loved to use homemade ice cream but, not enough time.  The flavor combinations are endless and it is a great way to get a fun kid friendly dessert on the table with little effort and allows you to use up miscellaneous items you have hanging around.  I became a hero when I put this on the dinner table tonight.

peanut butter cup and pretzel terrine
adapted: real simple

 30 Peanut butter cups, chopped
half gallon of vanilla ice cream, softened
30 pretzel snaps, broken
  1. Line a loaf pan with parchment, leaving an overhang. Press 1/2 of the softened vanilla ice cream into the pan, top with 20 chopped peanut butter cups and 20 broken pretzels.  Top with the remaining vanilla ice cream.  Smooth out top with spatula and sprinkle remaining peanut butter cups and pretzels.  Fold parchment over top, press down, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm (~2 hours).  To serve, remove from pan and slice.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

roasted vegetable salad with goat cheese

I am still in love with my farm fresh to you delivery.  I am trying to embrace the buy local and cook seasonally but, there are so many vegetables that come in the winter that I am just not use to cooking with.  They often stare back at me from the cardboard box taunting me.  I know it is a race against the clock to serve them before they spoil so, I try to develop one side that will use up some of the harder items of the week.  We have been receiving a bounty of kale lately.  Until this year I can't say that I had much kale before. I fell in love with kale last year in my kale chip craze but, beyond that I was at a loss.  This salad uses the kale chip concept as a base (which the kids will eat and LOVE) and then is covered with mixed roasted vegetables.  I like to taste my vegetables so, the salad is dressed with lemon juice which compliments the roasted garlic and salt.  The creamy goat cheese is a nice finish to the salad.  This is light but, very filling.  I intended it to be a side dish but, I had it as my meal partially because I overcooked the pot roast and because I could not stop at one serving.  I am a sucker for roasted vegetables.

roasted vegetable salad with goat cheese
source: sweetflours

6 nantes carrots, sliced on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
1/4 onions, chopped
8 grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 bunch kale, tough stems discarded and leaves sliced
1/2 ounce crumbled goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 425°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the nantes carrots, onions and tomatoes with 1 teaspoons olive oil. Spread into a single layer, season with salt and pepper and roast, tossing halfway through, until golden, about 25-30 minutes. On a separate baking sheet, drizzle the kale with remaining teaspoon of olive oil, season with salt and toss. Add to oven for last 9-11 minutes depending on how crisp you want the kale. 

Plate the salad with the kale then add the roasted vegetables.  Squeeze lemon juice over salad and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

southern coconut cake

Oh coconut cake how I love thee.  How I love that my father in law puts you on his Christmas list each year and allows me to create you, indulge in you, enjoy you and then HATE you!  Coconut cake is my absolute favorite dessert.  I know that coconut is a love hate food and many more hate then love but, lucky for me I have my father in law to share this decadent treat with once a year.  It has become a tradition to bake a coconut cake for Christmas Eve each year and often the only people eating a slice from this heavenly triple layer cake is me and my father in law.  The good news is there is more cake for us to enjoy.  The bad news is I get sent home with a quarter of the cake, a cake I know what went into it (butter, sugar and cream cheese galore) and even knowing that the fork keeps moving to my mouth.  I don't even put it on a plate because I know it is all for me.  I eat it right off the cake plate.  This year I had to pull in the big guns.  I called to Brad and in the kitchen he came.  I said "you have to do me a huge favor".  He said"ok" and that is how the coconut cake ended up in the trash can outside.  I hate wasting food especially my beloved cake but, I simply could not consume that entire cake alone or I may still be in a sugar induced coma.  

The coconut cake which I made last year was a catalyst for me to start a blog and begin to record my recipes and document my learnings.  I went to look back at my comments and well I guess at that point I only noted the recipe.  If I remember correctly I think I liked the one I made last year slightly more but ... eventually there will have to be a taste test so, I can land on my go to coconut cake.  With that being said this cake like every other cake I have made out of Sky High is insanely delicious.  The frosting is a little time consuming but, very good.  It is lighter and more delicate then a traditional cream cheese frosting which is a nice change.  The snowy white layers are stunning and the pure white coconut covers the cake like a dusting of snow.   See you 12-24-11 lover.

southern coconut cake
Source: Sky High Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 8-inch layered cake

5 egg whites
1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

For the Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, slightly chilled
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the 1/2 cup milk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and coconut milk and combine on low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just long enough to incorporate between additions. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, put the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until creamy. Set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, have the egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer, ready for when the syrup is at the proper temperature. Slowly add the hot syrup to the egg whites, while mixing on medium-low. Take care not to cause the hot syrup to splash. When all of the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture has cooled to body-temperature and it forms stiff peaks.

With the mixer on medium-low, add the cream cheese and butter mixture one spoonful at a time. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Frost the cooled cakes and cover with shredded coconut.
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