Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Wonderland Sugar Cookies

Hi!  Long time, no blog!  I hope you all had a great Christmas.  I can't believe it's already New Year's Eve!  This was my first Christmas that I decorated sugar cookies.  While I'm still not an expert, I am happy with the results.  Practice makes perfect, right?

I decided to stay with a pink/white/blue theme for the cookies because I feel like it's wintry and it's a nice departure from the typical red/white/green combination.  In keeping with the wintry theme, I decorated snowflakes, snowmen and mittens.  I decorated stockings and trees as well because I think they're pretty standard when it comes to Christmas.  The sanding sugar really makes them pop and adds to the winter feel!  Like I said, I'm not an expert at decorating sugar cookies, but I think these came out cute and I was happy to share with my friends and family!

I'm off to do some baking for New Year's dinner.  Have a safe and happy 2012!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Firetruck Cupcakes

A friend of mine asked me to bake cupcakes for her son's third birthday party and the theme was firetrucks.  I googled some images and found some adorable fondant firetrucks that I decided to use as inspiration.  I was a bit nervous to use the fondant since I'd only used it once before and didn't have the best results.

As my luck would have it, the two stores where I purchase my baking supplies were out of the pre-colored fondant.  I figured it couldn't be too hard to color it myself so I picked up some white and with the help of my sister, we created the three colors (in addition to the white) needed for the firetruck.  The process wasn't too hard, but it was a bit time consuming.  It took a couple of hours to cut out the different shapes for the truck.

I decided to bake a dozen chocolate and a dozen vanilla cupcakes.  I used my basic buttercream recipe.  I thought it would be fun to swirl yellow and red together to look like flames.  Unfortunately, I ran out of the red and yellow frosting so I used plain white for the last six cupcakes.  I sprinkled some red sanding sugar on them and I think they looked great!

For only the second time working with fondant, I think the firetrucks came out kinda cute.  Because I am lazy, I also decided to make stars with the number three on them.  Overall, I was pleased with how they looked and I think the birthday boy was happy too - He had one chocolate and one vanilla cupcake!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

50th Anniversary Cookies

My brother in law's parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  My sister and her husband, Mark threw a big bash for them and they asked if I would bake wedding cake cookies to give out as favors.  I was more than happy to but a bit nervous since I'd never really made (decorated sugar) cookies for anyone other than friends and family.

I didn't want to feel too overwhelmed, so I decided on baking them all in one night.  Then I outlined and flooded them another night while adding the decorations over a couple of nights.  I primarily stuck with white on white but I did add gold to a few since they were for a 50th wedding anniversary.  I was pleased with how they turned out but I know I still have a way to go with my decorating!

Happy 50th Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Norman!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Post from running foodie =)

I'm sure many of you have heard people say they've never regretted a workout.  No?  Just me?  Oookay...  Well, that's how I felt tonight.  I left work with every intention of hitting the gym, but when I sat down on the train to head home, I lost all desire I had to exercise.  It was crisp and breezy in town but the wind was nowhere to be found when I got home.  I really didn't want to work out at the gym and I knew I had to do some sort of physical activity.  I decided since it was the perfect fall night I would go for a short run.

I've not run at night alone in my 'hood because I've always been worried about the lack of proper lighting and activity - Cars, people waiting in the bushes to abduct me.  I headed out with the intention of just going for a mile since I didn't really know what to expect.  I felt pretty safe since I'd left my iPod at home i safety first!  I was wearing pants that have reflectors on them and I was rockin' these kicks:

My special shoes

But, I really didn't know how many people would be out or what the lighting would be like.  I made it out onto a fairly main street and was happy to see a lot of cars and even other runners!  I really enjoyed running in the beautiful fall evening.  I ended up running two miles and I didn't regret my workout!  ;)

Here are some helpful safety tips for running at night (or early morning):
Be seen!  Wear reflective gear
Leave the iPod at home.  If you need music to run, wear only one ear bud...  This is assuming you wear ear buds!  :)
Bring your cell phone
Map out your route ahead of time so you know where you're going
If possible, tell a friend or family member you're going out for a run  Better yet, run with a buddy!  They can help you up when you trip on the sidewalk and go ass over teakettle go flying three feet ahead!  (true story!)

Do you like to run at night?
Do you stick to the main roads where there are plenty of people and lots of lighting?
Do you have any suggestions for running at night or in the early morning?

I was so hungry when I got home from work and I wanted something fast and delicious.  While stretching, I took a mental inventory of what was in my fridge and I had leftover roasted pork with harvest veggies.  I had already eaten this as leftovers a couple of times this week so I decided to turn the leftover veggies into a soup!  I also paired the soup with a grilled cheddar and apple sandwich.  It was a great meal with yummy fall flavors.  Below is the "recipe" for the soup.  I use quotes as I don't know the exact amounts and had to sort of fudge the numbers.

Roasted Harvest Vegetable Soup

Olive oil
About 3 cups of roasted veggies (butternut squash, fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts)
1/4 cup sweet potato puree
1/3 large onion, diced
3/4 of an apple, peeled and chopped
15 oz or so of chicken broth
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 - 2 t ground ginger
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1 T maple syrup
salt & pepper

Preheat a medium saucepan and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the onion and cook for about five minutes.  While the onion cooks, cut up the roasted veggies if needed.  Add the veggies, the apple and the puree to the onions and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another 3 - 5 minutes then add the broth.  Stir to combine.  Add ginger, cinnamon, syrup and if necessary, salt and pepper.

This is where it gets fun!  :)  If you have one, take an immersion blender and blend until smooth.  If you don't have one, a food processor or blender will work, but you may need to do it in batches.  If using a blender or processor, be sure to cover the opening with a towel to let out some of the steam while you're pureeing the soup.  Once the soup is completely smooth, add in yogurt to add a bit of creaminess.  Sour cream, half & half or marscapone would work well too.  Let simmer for a few minutes and taste for seasoning.  Add any additional spices if necessary.

Grilled Cheddar and Apple Sandwich

Olive oil
2 slices of Ezekiel bread
3 slices cheddar cheese (I used Sargento reduced fat)
1/4 gala apple, thinly sliced
1 - 2 t Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 350 and heat a small skillet lightly coated with olive oil on medium heat.  Spread one side of both slices of bread with the mustard.  Once the skillet is warm add one slice of bread (mustard side up).  Top the bread with a slice of cheese and half the apples.  Add another slice of cheese then the rest of the apples.  Top with the last slice of cheese and the other slice of bread (mustard side down).  Drizzle a small amount of oil on top of the sandwich.  Cook on medium for a few minutes until brown and the cheese begins to melt.  Flip the sandwich and cook a bit longer.  Place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking, about five minutes.  I like to finish cooking the sandwich in the oven to ensure it gets heated through.  This paired well with the roasted veggie soup.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Autumn is in full swing and so is my baking and cooking!  Pumpkin and apples seem to get all the attention in the fall when it comes to baking, but there is one flavor I feel gets overlooked - Cranberry!  Cranberry is a crisp, tart flavor which I really enjoy.  It pairs very well with both pumpkin and apple too!  I found a bag of cranberries when I was cleaning out my freezer today and decided to make a batch of cranberry sauce.

As I was gathering the necessary ingredients for the cranberry sauce, I spotted an opened bottle of cabernet sauvignon on my counter.  I had made a bourbon cranberry sauce last year and I thought the cabernet would add a nice flavor - I was right!  Also, if you're a fan of whole berry cranberry sauce, then this is the one for you.

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

1 12 oz bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
Scant 1 cup water
A couple glugs of cabernet sauvignon (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Zest from lemon (about 4 - 5 big pieces)

Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook on medium until the berries begin to pop and the liquid begins to boil.  Continue to boil for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool completely before serving.  I left the zest in while the sauce cooled and I'll just remove the pieces as I serve it.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.  Please note, this is not a jellied cranberry sauce, so this will not set completely.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Hi there!  It's know it's been a while since I've posted.  I've been busy baking and cooking up a storm using the delicious flavors of fall as inspiration - Pumpkin snickerdoodles, cabernet cranberry sauce and roast pork loin with harvest veggies.  What's that link you ask?  Oh, it's my newest blog - running foodie.  I created a blog that incorporates my love for food and fitness.  Don't worry!  I'll still whip up indulgent decadent dishes like my chocolate peppermint cake and blue cheese stuffed buffalo turkey burgers but I am also trying out healthier versions of my favorite recipes.  I thought I would write about the healthier options on running foodie while keeping the more indulgent recipes here.

Now onto more important things - Cookies!

I remember when I was younger, my sister Emily and I decided to start a cookie company - Auntie Em's Cookies.  We specialized in snickerdoodles - Yummy little buttery bites with spicy hints cinnamon and sugar.  I think we were able to get a few orders, but if memory serves my correctly, my mom ended up baking the cookies and Emily and I still ended up keeping the proceeds!  I thought of our little adventure when I discovered this recipe on Annie's Eats.

These pumpkin delights are a nice twist on the standard snickerdoodle.  The pumpkin taste is not overpowering which is why I think I like them.  I am a big fan of pumpkin, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the pumpkin flavor so subtle.  This is an easy recipe to follow and many of you may already have all the ingredients on hand.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Yield: about 3-4 dozen cookies
For the cookies:
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
Dash of allspice
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the pumpkin puree.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend.  Scoop the dough (about 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball.  Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart.  Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in the sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly.  Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through.  Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Store in an airtight container.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Comfort Food 101: Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

For any Bostonians out there, you'll remember the icky, non-August like weather we experienced early last week.  It was cold and raining - RAIN two weekends in a row!  I don't know about you, but that kind of weather makes me want to flip it the bird stay in bed all day and eat high carb comfort foods!  I was at work and my mind kept wandering to homemade meatballs and sauce.  I decided I must have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner!  I stopped at the supermarket on my way home to pick up the necessary ingredients I didn't already have on hand.
I was a bit giddy when I got home and assembled all of the ingredients for the meatballs and sauce.  Both the meatballs and sauce came together fairly quickly and I was sitting down to a delicious, comforting meal in about an hour.  The recipe makes about 20 meatballs, so this is a great make ahead and freeze option.  I've already pulled out a few meatballs to slice and use for a pizza.  I've also had just the sauce with some pasta and leftover veggies.  Meatballs and spaghetti sauce are so versatile - I'm almost looking forward to a semi cool night soon so I can heat up a big bowl of pasta with sauce and meatballs!

Meatballs and Sauce
Yields: ~20 meatballs and a whole lot of sauce
Servings: One About 8-10

1 1/4 pounds of lean ground beef (I used 97% lean since the pork would add some additional fat and moisture)
1/2 - 3/4 pounds of ground pork
Two eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 - 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (I used a mix of unseasoned panko and whole wheat)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (I used the kind in a shaker can because I think it distributes better throughout the mixture than freshly grated)
1 T dried parsley
Salt & pepper
1/2 medium vidalia (or yellow) onion
1 T garlic (I used the pre-chopped garlic in oil because I forgot to buy fresh garlic.  You can also use 1 clove of fresh or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
Olive oil

Place the ground beef and pork in a bowl large enough to combine when all ingredients have been added.  Add in the eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.  Start out by adding only 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs.  You may need to add more if the mixture is too sticky or wet after all the ingredients have been added.
Finely chop or grate the onion and add to the bowl.  I find by grating the onion, you add better flavor and moisture that you wouldn't get from just finely chopping the onion.  If using fresh garlic, grate the clove into the bowl.  This way, you don't bite down into a large chunk of garlic and the flavor blends nicely into the mixture.
Preheat a skillet large enough to brown your meatballs as well as big enough to fit the sauce and meatballs.  Add a small amount of oil and keep the pan on medium heat.
Gently combine all the ingredients.  Don't over mix or the meatballs will end up being tough.  If the mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  If you added too many breadcrumbs, you can add in any of the following, 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten the mixture: unflavored seltzer, egg whites or broth.
Form the meatballs and place directly into the preheated skillet.  I used a spring-loaded cookie scoop to form evenly sized meatballs.  Brown the meatballs on all sides - This should take about 12 minutes.  Keep in mind that you will finish cooking the meatballs in the sauce, so you want to just brown them to add color and flavor.  Take the meatballs out of the pan and place on a dish.
NOTE: You can skip this step and just drop the meatballs directly into the sauce to cook.  They won't be browned but you will save a few calories and some fat by omitting this step.

Spaghetti Sauce
Olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 T garlic (about two cloves)
1 small can tomato paste (I used about 3/4 a tube because that is what I had in the pantry - More may be needed depending on how thick/thin you like your sauce)
1 magnum 1/2 cup red wine (I used Ravenswood Zin)
About 1 tablespoon each of: dried parsley, dried oregano and dried basil (If using fresh, add a bit more of each)
Salt & pepper
1 large can crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce (preferably no salt added)
1 T sugar (if needed)

In the same skillet you used to brown the meatballs, add a small amount of olive oil and preheat.  Once heated, add in the onions and saute on medium heat until translucent.  Add in garlic (good idea to grate here too!) and cook for about 30 seconds to bring out the flavor.  Make sure the heat isn't too high - There's not much worse than burned garlic to make a sauce bitter!  Add in the tomato paste and combine with the onions and garlic.  Add in the whole bottle wine and the spices and cook for about two minutes.  Add in the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Fill the smaller can with water and add about 3/4 of the can to the pan to start.  You may need to add more later if the sauce is too thick.  Cover and let simmer for about five minutes.  Taste and add salt, pepper and sugar if needed.  Additional water and or tomato paste may need to be added at this time.  I prefer a thicker sauce, so I didn't add any water, but I did add some more tomato paste.  Cover and continue to simmer for another five minutes.  Once the sauce has the right seasoning, add in your browned meatballs.  Keeping the heat on medium-low, cover and cook for about 20 - 25 minutes.  Every 10 minutes or so, turn the meatballs to make sure they're cooking evenly.

Serve the sauce and meatballs with your favorite pasta or enjoy with a nice piece of fresh Italian bread!  I served mine with nice, hearty bucatini - No whole wheat pasta this time!  Throw a straw in the bottle Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Some Damn Good Chicken


I apologize for the directness of this title's post, but that's all I could think of when I tasted this chicken!  There's something about grilled BBQ chicken that just screams summer and deliciousness (is that a real word?!).  It also makes me think of the 4th of July, which makes this posting quite appropriate!

This was my first attempt at grilling a whole, butterflied chicken and I will definitely be grilling chicken using this method more often.  It's fairly simple to butterfly a chicken (see video) and even easier if your butcher will do it for you!
I urge you to try this method - I am positive you'll love it and want to grill chicken this way all the time.

2 1/2 - 3 pound whole chicken, butterflied
Salt and pepper
BBQ sauce - I used my top secret Maker's Mark recipe!

Preheat grill to about 500℉.  While grill is heating, salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.  Once the grill is heated, place the chicken skin side down, close the lid and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Turn the heat down on the grill to around 400℉.  Turn the chicken over and cook for about 20 minutes with the lid closed.  Baste the chicken with BBQ sauce and turn over to baste the other side.  Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes and flip one last time.  Baste the chicken with some more sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.*  Remove the chicken from the grill and loosely cover with foil for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.

*Cooking times may vary.  The times listed are based on the temperature of my grill and the size of the chicken.  Chicken should be cooked to about 160 - 165℉.  Remove chicken from the grill when your thermometer reads 150 - 155℉ as the chicken will continue to cook as it sits.  If you don't have a thermometer, slice a thigh and breast.  If the juices run clear, the chicken is done.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

I think I mentioned the last time I posted a pancake recipe that I really, really love pancakes.  I also really, really love pumpkin.  This morning I decided to make pumpkin oat pancakes as I have a four mile training run ahead of me and I wanted something that would stay with me during the entire run.
A lot of people think to use pumpkin only in the fall, but pumpkin is a great low fat, low calorie food and it adds a great flavor to pancakes.  Canned pumpkin is a staple in my pantry and I use it year round.  I love using it since it adds no fat and I can feel better about inhaling a stack of pancakes!  :)
I noted that this recipe serves five to seven.  Since oat and wheat flours are used, the pancakes are a bit heavier and more hearty than say, buttermilk pancakes.  The recipe makes 15 pancakes and I figured two pancakes would make a good serving since they are on the heavier side.  However, this morning I had three since I am using my training run as an excuse to eat more!  :)
One great thing about these pancakes is they freeze well so you can make a batch over the weekend and warm them up during the week to have a quick, healthy meal on the go.

Pumpkin Oat Pancakes
Serves: 5-7

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour*
1 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) 
2 egg whites
1 3/4 - 2 cups of nonfat milk
1 T molasses
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice

Preheat a griddle or skillet and spray with nonstick spray.  To tell when the griddle is ready for use, I use a tip my mom taught me when growing up - Splash the griddle with a bit of water.  If the water sizzles, dances and evaporates, the griddle is ready. If not, it still needs to be warmed.
Add the dry ingredients to a bowl.  Add in the pumpkin, molasses and egg whites.  Start by adding 1 3/4 cups of the milk.  Whisk together and add more milk as needed.  You want the batter to be thin enough to easily pour onto the griddle, but not so thin that they'll run all over the griddle.  I used almost two cups of milk to get to the right consistency.
Once it's heated, pour the batter onto the griddle.  I find it easiest to use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. It makes more evenly shaped pancakes and it's just less messy than using a ladle.  A 1/3 cup measure also does the trick.  Since these pancakes are a bit heavier than others, you can't use the bubble test to know when to flip them (top of pancake is covered in small bubbles).  I find they take about two minutes and then they're ready to flip.  You can lift one up and check for doneness.  If they're a golden brown, they're ready to flip.  If not, give them another 30 seconds or so and they should be ready.  Cook for another two minutes until done.  A good way to check if they're done is by lightly pressing on the center of a pancake.  If it springs back, it's done.
I served my pancakes with fresh blueberries and a bit of maple-agave syrup.  During the week, these would be great smeared with almond butter - Sort of a pumpkin-almond butter sandwich.  I would even serve these with some pumpkin butter, but I am definitely a sucker for 100% maple syrup!


*I made my oat flour by placing steel cut oats in a food processor and pulsing until the oats were finely ground.  You can also buy oat flour but I figured since I already have oats in the pantry, it would save me money by just making my own.

Nutrition info (based on three pancakes):

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 199 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 
Trans Fat 
Total Carbohydrates 
Dietary Fiber 
Vitamin A 156%Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 24%Iron 18%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Monday, June 13, 2011

Apple Chicken Sausages with Sauteed Apples and Onions

This is a really simple and delicious meal.  It's a fairly versatile dish and can be served for dinner or even brunch.  This would be great with a french toast casserole.  :)  I served this alongside brown rice and broccoli, but I'm sure this would be great with some stuffing or a baked sweet potato.

My favorite part about this meal is the sauteed apples and onions.  They have a slight sweetness from the agave syrup and a warm, homey (not as in the clown, as in feeling like home!) flavor from the poultry seasoning.

Apple Chicken Sausages with Sauteed Apples and Onions
Serves: 2

One package of apple chicken sausage (I used Nature's Promise)
Nonstick spray
One large onion, thinly sliced
One medium apple, thinly sliced and skin on (I used a delicious since that's what I had on hand but any type will work)
1 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat two skillets - One for the sausages and one for the onions and apples (this one should be large enough for the onion mixture and sausages).  Spray both skillets with nonstick spray.  Preheat oven to 350℉.  Once the skillets are warm, add the sausages to one skillet and the onions to the other.  Turn the sausages to brown on all sides.  You don't need to worry about cooking them all the way through as they will finish cooking in the oven.

Cook the onions until almost tender and add the apples.  Cook a few minutes more until the apples are almost done, but not too soft.  Add agave syrup, poultry seasoning and, if using, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Add the sausages to the onion mixture and place in the oven until the sausages are thoroughly cooked, about 10-12 minutes (when sliced, the juices should run clear).


Toaster Oven Tostadas!

That's right.  Your eyes didn't fool you.  This is a recipe for tostadas...  Made in a toaster oven*.  They took me about 15 minutes total - From gathering the ingredients and making the tostadas to sitting down and enjoying them with a glass of Rioja.  The best part of this is there is little to no clean-up which is always a bonus on a work night.  They're healthy, filling and delicious.  Although this recipe is for one serving, you can quite easily make it for more.


* While this recipe was made in a toaster oven, you can easily make these in a standard oven.

Toaster Oven Tostadas
Servings: 1

Two corn tortillas
Nonstick spray
1/2 cup canned black beans
A couple dashes of chipotle tabasco sauce (optional)
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar
2 T reduced fat sour cream
2 T salsa
1/4 cup lettuce, shredded
1/4 cup tomato, seeded and diced

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Place the tortillas on the cookie sheet and lightly spray with nonstick spray (this helps crisp the tortillas).  Toast the tortillas on a low to medium setting until the tortillas' edges just begin to curl (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove the cookie sheet from the toaster oven and turn the oven to 300℉.

Place 1/4 cup of black beans on each of the tortillas.  Sprinkle tabasco sauce over the beans and top each tortilla with 1/4 cup of cheese.  Place the cookie sheet back in the preheated toaster oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Divide the lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream between the tortillas and enjoy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Brownie Bits

Yum.  All I have to say is yum!  I decided to make this ice cream because I'd baked some brownies for my running group and they did not come out the way I'd planned.  The tester came out clean, but sadly when I went to cut the brownies they were grossly undercooked.  So, when life hands you undercooked brownies...  You make ice cream!  Sorry, I couldn't resist!  :)

This was my first try at making ice cream in the ice cream maker I received as a birthday gift in July.  I have to say the process isn't nearly as scary as I'd thought.  In fact, it's pretty simple!  The hardest part is waiting for the ice cream to freeze so it can be eaten!  This recipe came together really quickly.  You can use the following brownie recipe (which is my favorite!) or you can use your own favorite.  I'd even suggest picking up some already made brownies to make this simple process even easier.

For the Ghirardelli brownies
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup Ghirardelli sweet ground chocolate and cocoa
2/3 cup unsifted flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
*I added about 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips as well as 1/4 cup of caramel bites.  The caramels can be found here at Nuts Online.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat an 8x8" or 9x9" pan with nonstick spray.  Using a spoon, stir eggs, sugar, and vanilla; add butter.  Sift together Sweet ground chocolate, flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir into egg mixture.  Spread into 8" or 9" square baking pan.  Bake 20-30 minutes.  For chewy brownies use 8" pan and less baking time.  For cake like brownies use 9" pan and more baking time.

For the ice cream (from: Annie's Eats):
8 oz. milk chocolate (at least 30% cacao solids), finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks

To make the ice cream, combine the milk chocolate and heavy cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and set a mesh sieve over the top of the bowl.

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and salt.  Heat until the sugar is dissolved.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  When the milk mixture is warm, slowly add to the bowl with the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens just slightly and coats the back of a spoon (170-175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer).  Remove from the heat and pour the custard through the strainer into the milk chocolate mixture.

  • Cover and chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.  Freeze the batter in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once frozen, fold in the brownie bits with a spatula.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.
  • Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Spinach and Asparagus Frittata

    I love frittatas!  They're quick, easy and versatile.  Best of all, you can use whatever you have in the fridge. It's a great way to use leftover veggies from last night's dinner!  This frittata has the asparagus that was leftover from last night as well as the egg whites I had set aside when I made ice cream (post to come soon!).  :)

    Like many frittatas, this one came together pretty quickly.  From start to finish, it took about 15 minutes which would make this a great weeknight meal or a last minute brunch dish.  Frittatas are great since you can add just about anything and can be served at any meal - Hot or cold!  The best part is that one serving of this frittata is 210 calories.  I served it along some Ezequiel toast (yum!) and grapes for some added, delicious fiber.

    Serves 2

    2 whole large eggs
    3 egg whites
    A couple tablespoons of water (optional)
    1 cup raw baby spinach
    1/2 cup cooked asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
    Salt & pepper to taste
    1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese (or any cheese you like)
    Nonstick spray

    Heat a nonstick, oven safe skillet and coat with nonstick spray.  Preheat broiler on high and move one of the racks directly under the broiler.

    Beat the eggs.  If you'd like to slightly increase the volume, add 1 - 2 T of water (I added about 1T).  Once the skillet is warm, add the asparagus and heat through.  Add the spinach and toss with asparagus to wilt slightly.  Pour eggs over the veggies and stir slightly and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook until the eggs are almost done and sprinkle with the cheese.

    Place the skillet under the broiler and cook for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and browned.  I usually leave the door propped open while the frittata is cooking because the frittata can go from browned to burned in a matter of seconds!  Cool slightly and cut frittata into quarters.  Enjoy!

    New Look!


    I thought I'd mix things up a bit and slightly change the look of the site with an Easter theme.  Jelly beans are one of my favorite Easter treats, so this background is perfect!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Quick Post - Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon Tiara Sugar Cookies

    It's been a while since I've posted.  I've been busy baking and cooking...  And running a 1/2 marathon!  I need to burn off all the calories I consume from my baking (and taste testing), right?  Anywho, three of my friends and I ran in Disney's Princess 1/2 Marathon last weekend.  It was so much fun!  My favorite part?  Running through Cinderella's castle!  I wanted to bring a treat for the girls to celebrate our accomplishment.  What a better treat than tiara sugar cookies?  I found the perfect cookie cutter and went to work.

    This was my second try at decorating sugar cookies with royal icing.  I'm far from perfect, but I feel more confident than I did my first try.  Plus, these were really fun to make and all things princess-ey are right up my alley!  With a little time, creativity and sparkle, these came out really pretty (if I do say so myself)!

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Snowed In and Rockabilly Birthday Cupcakes!

    If you live in the Northeast of the US (or any region this winter!), then I'm sure you can easily relate to this cupcake.  I found the idea on one of my new favorite blogs - The Daily Mixer and I just had to make them!  Of course I ordered everything needed to decorate the cupcakes from  Do you think that was the intention when they posted the idea on their blog?  :)  Same with the Rockabilly cupcakes I made for a coworker's birthday.  I purchased a kit that contained various decor - nonpareils, cupcake toppers and papers.  I decided I'd just sprinkle the cupcakes with nonpareils and top each with one of the various toppers included in the kit.  They're very kitschy, which I love!

    Oh, by the way - The cupcake is a gingerbread cupcake which is topped with a lemon cream cheese frosting.  Uh-may-zing!

    For the Love of Red

    A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I'd make a dessert for a fundraiser she would be attending.  I jumped at the chance and immediately began sifting through my recipes to find the perfect dessert.  The theme of the night was red, so what better choice is there than red velvet cake?  I thought cupcakes would be perfect since they're portable, portioned controlled (which makes it easier to serve) and just too cute!

    I went to my go-to blog for cupcakes - Annie's Eats and found the perfect recipe for red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  If you've never made red velvet before (this was my first time), you should know that it contains a lot (a LOT) of red food coloring.  After all, they're not called pink velvet cupcakes.  :)  I was concerned all of the red food coloring would make the cupcakes taste a bit off (as it tends to do), but I could barely taste it.  I baked these in red foil liners and frosted them using a large star tip.  I topped them off with cute little red paper heart picks.  I had originally planned on decorating the cupcakes using large red heart quins (sprinkles).  Unfortunately, due to a blizzard in the midwest, my package from Fancy Flours was held hostage in a Chicago FedEx warehouse!  They arrived today, so I suppose I could just bake these for Valentine's (twist my arm!).

    The cupcakes were a hit, as was the fundraiser.  It was a great night and I felt proud of my little cupcakes for being eaten for such a good cause!  :)  Below is a picture of three of my friends, Alison, Christine and Lainey enjoying their evening.

    Red Velvet Cupcakes
    Yield: about 24 cupcakes
    For the cake:
    2½ cups cake flour
    1½ cups sugar
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 tbsp. cocoa powder
    1 tsp. salt
    2 large eggs
    1½ cups vegetable oil
    1 cup buttermilk
    2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
    For the frosting:*
    8 oz. cream cheese
    5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.)

    *If you are big on frosting as I am, you may want to increase the quantities by 50%.  That is what I typically do for a batch of 24 cupcakes.  I usually end up with some left over, but I would rather have too much frosting than not enough!

    Source: Annie's Eats