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Welcome to my collection of recipes and cooking related ramblings. Please don't expect culinary perfection during your time here... for I am a frustrated foodie with very little patience and more than a tendency for often unnecessary creativity in the kitchen. I have a hard time following instructions (Never fear, I can read, I just don't like being told what to do), so cooking is a good exercise in discipline for me. Luckily I have a willing husband to taste test these creations, good and bad, so I don't have to suffer alone in my experimentations.  

If you dare - learn along with me as I try out recipes, tweak them to my liking, learn what NOT to do and share all the mundane details with you! Let's do this... 

Sunday
May132012

Blueberry Breakfast Cake worth getting up early for!

I'm sure you're aware that blueberries are classified as a superfood, rich in antioxidants and natural goodness (read: I'm too lazy to google exactly why you should eat blueberries, so do it yourself if you care) therefore making them an ideal way to start your day. I'd like to think the pros of eating blueberries outweighs the cons of downing handfuls of the other ingredients soaked in buttermilk, so I'm sharing the recipe for this decadent breakfast/dessert cake. It's perfect for a brunch or to take to work  because it's easy to whip up and travels well. Not to mention it can sit out covered all day for people to snack on.... if it lasts that long. In fact, I first tried this recipe at a co-workers suggestion. He suggested I make it and bring it into work for him to try. Sneaky bastard knows I'm a sucker for baked goods. : )

Anyway - I found this recipe at alexandracooks.com via pinterest (of course). I didn't make any alterations other than adding and extra cup of blueberries. You could probably vary this up with strawberries or raspberries or a combination of all of three berries - or bake it in muffin tins (cut the baking time to about 20 minutes). However you do it, it's worth doing... this easy recipe is moist and delicious.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • zest from 1 large lemon
  • 7/8 cup sugar sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup buttermilk 
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling on top (I use turbinado)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the beaten egg and vanilla and beat until combined. In a second bowl toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, and in a third bowl -  sift remaining flour together with baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries until ust mixed together - be careful not to turn the cake blue!

Spray two 8"x8" baking pans with non-stick spray (I like Pam baking spray - it has flour in it - works great!). Divide batter between the two pans. Sprinkle batter with coarse sugar. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return to oven for a couple of more minutes. Cool completely before serving. Store covered in a cool, dry place. 

Saturday
Apr282012

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

Hungry? Feeling decadent? Wanna impress with finesses at your next night in with the girls? Feel like channeling Ina Garten and dining with Geoffrey on your gorgeous back porch surrounded by climbing jasmine and cooing doves?

No? If you merely fancy a lazy Sunday morning padding around the house in your ancient bunny slippers, watching an Ice Loves Coco marathon and planning something especially swanky to go with your morning-after mimosa cocktail, then this is the recipe for you. Savory and rich and crunchy - it satisfies the senses and soothes the soul. Plus - it's the best way I can think of to eat my vegetables! Recipe serves 6-8 depending on who you're trying to fool. 

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

Ingredients:

  • 14-15 stalks of asparagus, trimmed
  • 15 slices thinly sliced salami, ham or prosciutto
  • 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. On a floured surface roll out your thawed sheet of puff pastry to a rectangle approximately 11"x13" or so. Make sure to press together any seams where the pastry separates. Carefully use a knife to score a line approximately 1" around the outside of the pastry to form a "crust". Cook the pastry for approximately 12 minutes until it begins to puff and brown. Remove pastry from oven and gently press down on the center portion of the tart shell where it has puffed up and flatten it back down.

While the crust is prebaking in the oven, wash and trim aspargus spears. Take a slice of meat and wrap it around each spear leaving the tops exposed. Sprinkle about 3/4 of the cheese in the center of the pastry inside the scored edge. Lay asparagus spears in an alternating pattern crosswise on the crust. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until asparagus is tender.  Let cool slightly before cutting. Use a large, sharp knife to cleanly cut through asparagus. This is great served warm or at room temperature, which makes it an ideal appetizer too.

Saturday
Apr282012

Chocolate Checkerboard Brownies

 

I stopped by the drugstore the other night on my way home from work, and as usual, there was a ridiculously long line. I was standing there with my conditioner and bandaids next to the wall of bags of candy and, darned it if my impulse control wasn't on the fritz. Next thing I knew I was leaving with two bags of Dove miniatures, dark chocolate almond and milk chocolate peanut butter) and the threat of calorie guilt on the weekend horizon. I decided to put those little candy nuggets to good use and make some Deluxe double chocolate candy coated brownie bites. Don't get intimidated folks, it's just a regular brownie recipe (straight off a box of chocolate) with candies on top. But, because it's my own culinary creation, it's in the details people, I'm gonna call them Chocolate Checkerboard Brownies. 

Chocolate
Checkerboard
Brownies

Ingredients: Serves 28-40

  • 4 1-oz. squares unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 28 or 40 Dove candies. (My pan was 8x5 rows - but 7x4 rows would work well for bigger brownies.)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Unwrap all the candies (pain in the neck!) and set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the baking chocolate and butter together for 2 minutes on high. Stir continuously until the chocolate is completely melted. Mix in the sugar, when combined, stir in the eggs and vanilla. Lastly, stir in the flour and mix until completely combined. 

Pour mixture into a foil lined 9"x13" baking pan. Alternate your two types of Dove candies in a grid on top of the brownie mixture. I put the candies upside down for a more even surface texture. Bake brownies for 30-35 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out with crumbly chocolate attached. Be careful not to overbake.

Cool completely in the pan and then slice and serve!

Verdict: The dark chocolate almond squares are over the top chocolatey. Not for the faint of heart.. could use a side of vanilla ice cream for sure. The peanut butter ones are yummy on their own, the peanut butter is melty on the inside. Sigh... I think I might need to taste another to be sure. Yeah, I think I do. 

 

Friday
Apr132012

Twice baked potatoes = twice the gooey goodness

How do you like this really bad photo or the most delicious potatoes ever?

So, a gabillion years ago, I worked in a restaurant that was well known among those in the lunch-hour-know for it's twice baked potatoes. They were a significant part of my employment, those potatoes. Most of the time I worked the morning shift, where we prepped food for the day. Each morning a few people would work potato duty and get busy washing, steaming, slicing, scooping, mixing, stuffing and topping several hundred potatoes. It was a ritual I grew to look forward to - and whose efforts I enjoyed nearly every day or two for three years. Those damn potatoes were delicious. I know, I ate them for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. I've actually dreamt about dipping those potatoes in ranch dressing.... good times....

This story has nothing to do with the recipe - but since I have your attention - I'm gonna tell it to you anyway. One morning while I was scooping the aforementioned potatoes, I discovered exactly how small the world really is... it was truly an early morning epiphany, it was, I swear.  I was scooping potatoes with two girls, we'll call them Ellen & Debbie, because those are their names (lol). We were talking about places we had lived before our meeting in Aggieland. I had lived in three places - Bartlesville (OK), London, and Houston. Ellen chimed in and shared that she spent her childhood in B'ville and lived one street behind me. We were backyard-diagonal-neighbors. Our dads played on the same company softball team. We were one grade apart and attended the same elementary school - yet we'd never met. 

I mentioned we lived in London for a couple of years and I went to American Community School. Debbie did too. In 1976, just like me. She lived right next to St. John's Wood (where we lived) and shopped at Panser's grocery and played at the King's Church playground and cemetery. I played in that cemetery almost every day. We bought popsicles at the same stand on High Street, half a world away. Again, she was one year older than me, we attended the same school and we had never met. Uh, spooky. 

I couldn't believe the coincidence that the three of us would be connected in such a random way. Surely there had to be a reason we were all standing there, right? I suppose ultimately it made me realize you can't escape crossing paths again and again with certain people in life... if you run, they will haunt you. If you hide, they will hunt you down. If they catch you, you'll end up scooping potatoes together at 8am on a Tuesday.

Anyway, back to business - here's my take on the old Grapevine Bistro's twice baked potatoes. We made those potatoes with an industrial butter substitute called Whirl. I have no idea what exactly it was (and I don't really want to) so I did my best to recreate it's mystery creamy goodness. Of course you can/should adjust the filling ingredients to your own tastes - these measurements are just a guideline to get you started. 

INGREDIENTS: Serves 4

  • 4 potatoes, medium 
  • 4 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 4 Tbsp. greek yogurt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. bacon bits
  • 4 oz. muenster cheese, cubed
  • 8 oz. swiss cheese, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. minced onions
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

First, let's bake those potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash each potato and generously rub each potato with olive oil. It's okay to get them all oily - that will make the skin crisp up. Shake kosher salt all over potato skin. Set potatoes directly on rack inside the oven. Cook for one hour. Remove potatoes when they "give" when you squeeze them. 

Let potatoes cool for about 5 minutes. Hold a potato with an oven mitt while it's still warm and slice a sliver off of one side. Gently scoop the potato pulp into a bowl leaving about 1/4" of potato attached to the skin. Scoop out each potato and combine potato filling with butter, sour cream, yogurt, bacon bits, minced onions, and salt and pepper until creamy. Mix in half of the cubed swiss cheese to the potato mixture. Spoon mixture back into each of the potato skins and line up in an oven-proof dish. Top each potato with remaining swiss cheese and muenster cheese cubes. (The potatoes can be refrigerated for later use at this point.) For the second baking - just reheat in a 400F oven for approximately 20 minutes until cheese is all bubbly and browning. 

Saturday
Apr072012

Summery strawberry stacks - aren't they pretty?

The thermometer is creeping up - and summer is on its way folks. Makes my mouth water for luscious fruity desserts dolloped with creamy creamy cream.  Sounds like summer to me. This little parfait perfection uses versatile, yet often forgotten, wonton wrappers as a crunchy sweetened crust.

You can use other fruits if you want - blackberries and peaches, blueberries and raspberries or maybe kiwi and mandarin orange slices... use your imagination. I might also suggest using vanilla pudding in a layer or two in place of the whipped cream. You know, because you can.

Summery Strawberry Stacks

INGREDIENTS: Serves 4

  • 16 wonton wrappers
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large banana, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup whipped cream or whipped topping
  • 20 strawberries, cleaned and thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat a large cooking sheet with cooking spray. Lay the wonton wrappers on the prepared sheet in a single layer. Lightly spray the tops with cooking spray. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the wrappers. Cook in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

To assemble, place four of the wonton wrappers on a serving plate or on individual dessert dishes. Top each wonton with 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream, followed by 3-4 banana slices and 1-2 sliced strawberries. Top with a second wonton wrapper. Repeat layer with 2 tablespoons whipped cream, bananas and strawberries. Top with the remaining wonton wrappers, whipped cream and a strawberry. Serve immediately