Jalapeno Popper Dip


Warning: This could become your new favorite dip! If you enjoy all things spicy and cheesy, you will lovey this! This isn't the most figure friendly appetizer, but I did use reduced fat cream cheese to cut the fat a bit :D

Even though the ingredients list mayo, you can't taste it whatsoever. So if you have any guests who have an aversion towards mayo, do not tell them it's in there since they probably won't want to try it - which I've learned from experience. Serve this with thinly sliced crostini or tortilla scoops and you'll be the hit of the party.



Jalapeno Popper Dip

8 servings

Ingredients:
2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
1 cup parmigiano reggiano
1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos, drained*
1 (4 ounce) diced green chiles
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

Directions:
1. Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, parmigiano reggiano and jalapenos in a bowl and pour into a 2 qt baking dish (8x8 pan).
2. Mix the panko bread crumbs and parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle over the dip.
3. Bake in a 375F oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 10-20 minutes.

Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges. Do not over heat this dish or the mayonnaise with separate and you will have a grease puddle in your dip.

*I like my food spicy so I chopped 4 more small whole pickled jalapenos, sliced them thinly and added them to the dip. I would also forgo the panko and parm topping since I felt like it didn't add much to the dip.



Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls


Nothing says Christmas like the smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. How good are homemade cinnamon rolls piping hot from the oven?! Melt in your mouth tender bites of dough filled with warm spices of cinnamon and sugar - YUM!

Lobster and I have started our own Christmas tradition and begin our morning of present opening with these bad boys. I tried a new recipe this year and warning: they are decadent, heavenly and oh so yummy and make you wish every day was Christmas!
The dough is rich and moist and each bite has you yearning for more. I still can't decide whether I prefer them over my old ye faithful cinnamon rolls - I hope they'll forgive me for my infidelity - but perhaps I'll have to do a taste comparison in the future.

I served these to my family and instantly won them over - they couldn't believe they were made from scratch. Since it's the holidays, it was nice to spread a little Christmas glee and see the joy on everyone's face as they ate these babies. It's a good thing there were a lot of people around since I could have literally eaten the entire batch. I found myself attacking the center part of each roll - everyone knows that's the best part - then serving the outer scraps to everyone else. Haha - I wish! In all fairness, I only did that to Lobster and mine....okay and maybe my mom's. :D I think it was well deserved, I did slave away in the kitchen and make them after all. Enjoy!




Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker - recipe from Saveur Magazine

Makes 16 rolls


FOR THE DOUGH:
1 1⁄4-oz. package active dry yeast
1⁄2 tsp. plus 1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3⁄4 cups flour, sifted, plus
more for kneading
3⁄4 tsp. fine salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room
temperature, plus more for the pan


FOR THE FILLING:
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
1⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. maple syrup
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


FOR THE ICING:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1⁄4 cup milk


1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook, combine yeast, 1⁄2 tsp. of the sugar, and 1⁄4 cup water heated to 115°. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Turn mixer off and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until the dough just comes together. Turn mixer speed to high and knead dough for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1 1⁄2–2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl; stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set filling aside.

3. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a heavily floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary, about 1 minute. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10" x 10" square. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until it's smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square; then fold square into thirds as you would fold a letter to fit it into an envelope. Take the open ends of the resulting rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll into a 10" x 20" rectangle.

4. Turn the dough so the long end is facing you. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Drizzle the reserved filling over the dough, leaving a 1" border at the edge farthest away from you. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder, seam side down, on a cutting board and, using a thin, sharp knife, trim off the ends; cut cylinder crosswise into 16 equal-size slices. (I find it MUCH easier to cut the rolls with dental floss) Nestle the slices, cut sides up into a buttered 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. (Alternatively, the rolls may be refrigerated overnight to rise in the fridge.)

5. Heat oven to 375°. Uncover the rolls. (If refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the rolls comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

6. Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth.

7. Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle all over the rolls. Serve immediately.


Cranberry, White Chocolate, Oatmeal Cookie


I realize I've posted many things in the past as best thing EVERRR, fan-freaking-tastic, or yummylicious - using capital letters, exclamation points and whatever bells and whistles I can think of. But rarely do I ever make the bold statement that something is my favorite. Well friends, this is one of my absolute favorite cookies. In fact, I vividly remember the day they entered my life! It was a bright sunny day in March, I was at the beach, there was a slight breeze in the air - okay, maybe I'm being the tiniest bit melodramatic, but really, these cookies are fabulous! They're crispy and soft, but chewy. Sweet but tart. They're just (insert sigh) the best cookies EVERRR :D Give 'em a try and hopefully they'll become a favorite of yours too.


Cranberry, White Chocolate, Oatmeal Cookie

Recipe from Nigella Lawson

Makes 40 1-1/2” cookies


Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips, roughly chopped

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and rolled oats into a bowl.

Put the butter and sugars into another bowl and beat together until creamy — this is obviously easier with an electric mixer of some kind, but you just need to put some muscle into otherwise — then beat in the egg and vanilla.

Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and oat mixture and then fold in the cranberries, chopped pecans and chocolate chips.

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball with your hands, (I use a small cookie scoop) and then place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and squish the dough balls down with a fork. You may need two baking sheets or be prepared to make these in two batches.

Cook for 9-11 minutes; when ready, the cookies will be tinged a pale gold, but be too soft to lift immediately off the tray, so leave the tray on a cool surface and let them harden for about 5 minutes. (I like to make them extra crispy around the edges so I keep them in a bit longer until the bottoms are a golden brown then take them out of the oven and leave them on the tray for 5 minutes longer) Remove with a spatula or whatever to cool fully on a wire rack.

Merry Christmas!


Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season!


Christmas Party, a Dessert Bar and Chewy Brownies


The other night Lobster and I hosted a Holiday party and had about fifteen guests, twenty platters of food, seven desserts, and chocolate treats here, there and everywhere! There was an insane amount of food and I went a little nuts and also made a dessert bar.



I made cute little mini raspberry lemon cupcakes, salted caramel cupcakes, almond toffee brittle "crack," peanut butter blossoms, and chewy brownies. Needless to say it was a sugar overload and everyone took home a doggie bag of sweets to enjoy for the next few days. Luckily for me, there were a few stragglers left behind so Lobster and I had desserts for the week.


While trying to decide what desserts to serve, I knew I had to make brownies. After all, who doesn't love brownies?! The question was, what recipe to try? I set out to find the best brownie recipe and my goodness, there are more brownie recipes on the Internet then there are hairs on my head. And jiminy Christmas, are people particular about their brownies! I like mine chewy but the combinations I found were endless - chewy, fudgey, cakey, chocolatey, cocoa-ey.....you get the idea. The recipe I finally chose was ironically called, "chewy brownies" from Cook's Illustrated. They're always a trusted source and deliver excellent results and this time was no different. The brownies were chewy, moist, fudgey, chocolatey and best of all had that lovely crackly top you usually only get from the box-mix everyone loves. I even refrained myself from eating or cutting them until two days later, since brownies apparently taste better with age - such self control I have! Where that self control went when it came to finally eating them - I have no idea.

While I can't leave well enough alone and know I'll still be experimenting with other recipes, this was a good starter recipe for a classic brownie. If you'd like to try a "fancy" brownie, try my all time fave Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Cheesecake Swirl Brownie. Enjoy!

*For the Chewy Brownie recipe, you can find it here









Brown Sugar-Almond Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting


For Christmas Lobster gave me a cupcake "courier" to store and transport my cupcakes - best gift ever! Not to be mistaken for a cupcake "carrier" - this baby is the bad ass of cupcake carriers. It was designed by a mom who was obviously brilliant since it's a triple decker carrier that transports cupcakes wonderfully and unharmed. To christen my new gift, I made Brown Sugar-Almond Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting. This is a bit of a unique cupcake since the bottom is layered with crushed almonds and sugar, then topped with the cake batter. The result is a rather dense cake which is not overly sweet considering it's called a brown sugar cupcake. While the cupcakes were good, they didn't warrant a happy dance like these or these. I tend to like my cupcakes fluffier but these tasted a bit "heavy" IMO. Even though I was a bit disappointed with them, one guest did enjoy them quite a bit and asked to keep a couple extra - so maybe it's just me. Give them a try and let me know whatcha think :)


Brown Sugar-Almond Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

Recipe from Raspberry Eggplant blog

Makes 8 cupcakes


For the Brown Sugar-Almond cupcakes:
¼ cup almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup low-fat yogurt
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature

For the Blackberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting:
4 ounces fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
[Alternately, 2 tablespoons blackberry jam in place of the blackberries + sugar]
2 egg whites
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature

***************

Cupcakes:

Heat an oven to 350 F. Line 8 wells of a muffin pan with cupcake papers.

Put the nuts and sugar into the bowl of a mini chopper and pulse until the nuts are ground – you want some texture so do not grind them too finely. Evenly distribute the ground nuts between the lined wells of the pan and set the pan aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and mix until combined.

Add half of the flour mixture, all of the yogurt mixture, and then the remaining flour, mixing on medium speed after each addition until just combined.

Distribute the batter between the cups. Bake until lightly golden around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean, 16-18 minutes.

Frosting:

Slice 4 berries in half lengthwise and set them aside.

Puree the remaining berries along with the sugar. Strain the blackberry puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Gently simmer the puree over medium-low heat until it is thick and reduced to about 2 tablespoons; this will take 10-12 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

Put the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer. Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan and set the mixer bowl on top of the pan. Whisk the egg white mixture until it is 130 F – the mixture will turn thick and white, and this should take about 3 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip the egg white mixture on high speed until it is cool, thick, and glossy, about 7 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-high and add the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before the next addition. After all the butter has been added, continue beating the frosting until it comes together – this will take a minute or two.

Add the reduced blackberry puree (or jam) and mix to combine.

Frost the cupcakes and top each with a berry half.



Peanut Butter Blossoms


Is there anyone out there who can resist the combination of peanut butter and chocolate? There's a reason why they're a classic pair and these cookies are the epitome of why they go hand in hand together. It's no wonder I've been seeing these little guys everywhere on the Internet lately - because they're fan-freaking-tastic! They're also more manageable to eat now that I figured out how to eat them properly. It was a bit of a challenge at first due to the shape of the Hershey's kiss - until I figured out my plan of attack! Take a tiny nibble off the tip of the chocolate and then proceed to chomp from all angles. Either way you eat it, these will definitely be a crowd pleaser and disappear fast! Start your holiday baking off right and make these PBB's.


Peanut Butter Blossoms
Recipe from Hershey's
Makes about 4 dozen


Ingredients
:
48 Hershey's kisses, unwrapped
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sugar


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (I used my small cookie scoop from Pampered Chef and got exactly 48 cookies). Roll in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Run the bottom of a Hershey kiss along warm baking sheet and immediately press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. They will make a cute "tssss" noise :) Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.


Lemon filled Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Raspberry Lemon Frosting and Cupcakes 101


Cupcakes so cute and light - betcha can't eat just one! Mini cupcakes are the perfect one bite treat to end any meal. Well, two bites if you're me - but tasty and yummylicious none the less. I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe, filled them with lemon curd then topped them with a lovely raspberry frosting.

I am a newbie cupcake "fill-er" and it wasn't as intimidating as I expected it to be. The lemon filling was a nice surprise and made the cupcakes light and refreshing. The blush pink colored frosting make them festive for any occasion. A baby or bridal shower would make for the perfect occasion to showcase these sweet little treats. Make life sweeter, eat dessert first! Num ^_^


Cupcake Tip #1:

If you want to keep your cupcakes fresh and soft DO NOT put them in the refrigerator, it will dry them out. You may put the unfrosted cupcakes in a container and wrap container in saran wrap to freeze them.

Then if you need to whip up a quick snack, take out the frozen cupcakes, and immediately start frosting and decorating. When done, place on a plate in room temperature for an hour or two to thaw. Tastes just like fresh cupcakes.

If you're planning to make the cupcakes ahead, store them in an air tight container at room temperature.

Cupcake Tip #2:

Thawing the cupcakes wrapped--whether enclosed in foil, plastic wrap, or both or left in a zipper-lock bag--allowed condensation to form between the wrapper and the tops, which turned gooey. Those that were unwrapped before thawing were as good as new. In terms of taste, there was little to differentiate one storage method from another. For longer periods of storage, where the likelihood of freezer burn increases, we recommend double-wrapping cupcakes in plastic wrap and foil (in groups or individually) before placing them in the freezer. And make sure to unwrap them before thawing. (Info from Cook's Illustrated)


Cupcake Tip #3

Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting should be store in the fridge


Lemon filled Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Raspberry Lemon Frosting
Yields: Approximately 48 mini-cupcakes or 6 to 7 regular size cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cake flour (6 oz)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups sugar
2.5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tbs buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners filling each about 2/3 of the way full (to make them into mini cupcake sizes – the amount I used was 1 tbs plus 1 teaspoon for each cupcake liner) Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. (I like to remove them with a toothpick since that leaves the least dent in the cupcakes)

Yield: approximately 48 mini cupcakes

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats who got it from Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from The Well-Decorated Cake

Raspberry Lemon Buttercream Frosting

NuM NuM original recipe

½ cups sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 tbs raspberry puree
1/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup confectioners sugar

Place the stand mixer bowl over a simmering pot of water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk the sugar and egg whites until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture registers 160 degrees with a candy thermometer.

Place bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whish attachment and whisk on high speed until the mixture is cool and holds stiff, glossy peaks (approximately 10 minutes). Change to the paddle attachment and beat in one tablespoon of butter at a time on medium. Mixture might appear curdled or liquidy but keep beating and it will pull back together after a few minutes. Add lemon juice, puree and vanilla and sugar. Increase speed to high and beat frosting until everything is incorporated. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and mix with spoon until smooth or beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

To assemble cupcake fill cake with lemon curd using a pastry bag inserted with a small frosting tip. Insert the entire tip into your cupcake and squeeze and pull gently up until the cupcake is filled and you can see the curd overflowing a bit on the top of the cupcake. (I just used store bought lemon curd) - but if you would like to make your own, the following recipe looks like a good one but I have yet to try it.

Note: This frosting will only frost 24 mini cupcakes - double if you want to frost 48.

Lemon Curd
Martha Sterwart's Cooking School, p. 477
Makes about 1 & 3/4 cups (you only need like 1/4 of this recipe to fill 12 large cupcakes)

1 1/2 Tsp cold water
1/8 Tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
1 large whole eggs plus 1.5 large egg yokes
1/4 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of lemons (about 1.25 Tsp)
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1.5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and well chilled

Dissolve gelatin: pour water into a small bowl, sprinkle with gelatin. let stand until gelatin has softened and all the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Cook curd in a small heavy bottom saucepan: whisk together eggs and yokes. add sugar and lemon zest & juice. cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. it should hold a line drawn by your finger, 8-10 minutes.

Thicken curd: remove pan from heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. stir for a few minutes to cool slightly. stir in butter a few pieces at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.

Strain and chill: strain through a fine sieve into a bowl (to remove any bits of undissolved gelatin and egg), pressing with a spatula to remove as much curd as possible. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Whisk until smooth before using.


Prize Winning Banana Bread


I love it when you make something and you instantly know you have a "tried and true" recipe that will end your search for all others to come. This my friends, is that recipe! I knew it had potential when I saw the title "Prize Winning Banana Bread" - and that it was! I took my first bite and said, "mmm...it's good." Then after my brain actually registered what I was eating, I squealed with joy, "ooooh, that's really good!" I gave a piece to Lobster and he reaffirmed my thoughts. Since I made the bread for Lobster's grandpa, I of course had to try a piece for quality control purposes :)

This is an excellent recipe and produces a wonderfully moist bread. As an added bonus, the divine smell that exudes from the oven isn't too shabby either. I've been disappointed with other recipes in the past, but this is definitely a winner! I realize the Internet is already flooded with hundreds of banana bread recipes, but I felt this was worthy enough to share since I'm certain you'll go bananas over this banana bread - no pun intended :P


Prize Winning Banana Bread
Recipe from Group Recipes
Makes one loaf

Ingredients
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (I use 3 medium well-ripened bananas)
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

How to make it:
• Mix together butter, oil, sugars and eggs.
• Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla, stirring together well.
• Mix in flour, baking soda and salt, stirring until it is well blended.
• Pour into 1 greased large loaf pan or 2 smaller loaf pans (I cut the recipe in half and cooked it in a smaller loaf pan)
• Sprinkle additional brown sugar generously over top of batter, using your hand to gently pat some of it into the batter, which is purely optional!
• Bake at 325 degrees: large loaf pan for about 1 hour, smaller loaves for about 40-45 minutes.
• Allow bread to cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges, tap the pan on the counter several times to release the bread from the bottom of the pan, then invert pan over a wire rack and let the bread fall onto the rack to finish cooling completely.

Variations and Suggestions: Add any of the following – miniature chocolate chips, toffee bits, shredded coconut, chopped pecans or macadamia nuts.
• Try toasting your banana bread – spread hot toasted bread with butter and even add a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar and some slices of banana, or top with a combination of honey and peanut butter, or spread hot toasted bread with some Nutella…the possibilities are endless!
• Use slices of banana bread to make your French toast. Just dust the finished product with some powdered sugar, or a little powdered sugar glaze, or spread on some Nutella, and maple syrup is good on it, too…you’ve gotta try it!

Chili-Rubbed Pork with Apricot Glaze


If you’re like me and are a P.O.P., pal of pork, then you’ll enjoy this sweet and savory spin on the "other" white meat. This piggy tantalized all my taste buds - sweet, savory, and spicy. Pair this with my new favorite side dish and you’ve got yourself one delicious weeknight meal. As an added bonus, this meal comes together fast and dinner's on the table in less than an hour. Wait, is that fast? I don’t have any bambinos so that seems relatively quick to me. Although if I had a child frantically running around the kitchen I could see how this could be a bit cumbersome. Perhaps on those days – a drive thru would be more appropriate. But on the “other” days this would be a great option.

Chili-Rubbed Pork with Apricot Glaze

Adapted from Mel's Kitchen

Serves 4

*Note: This recipe requires marinating time (between 2 and 24 hours) so plan ahead!

2 (1-pound each) pork tenderloins, fat trimmed

Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups apricot jam/jelly
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I would add more next time)
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 small limes, juiced

Combine chili powder, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season pork with salt and rub the spice mixture on the pork tenderloins. Cover the tenderloins and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Prior to grilling or roasting, melt the apricot jam in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining glaze ingredients. Place half of the glaze in a serving bowl and set aside to serve with the pork tenderloins later.

Grilling Instructions: Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pork tenderloins for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 148 degrees F. When approximately 4 minutes of cook time remains, brush the pork tenderloins with the apricot glaze remaining in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, turn the pork tenderloins and brush glaze on other side. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove pork from the grill, tent with foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Roasting Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pork tenderloins in a lightly greased, foil-lined 9X13-inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush with the apricot glaze remaining in the pan. Bake for 15 more minutes. Again, brush with glaze. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the pork reaches 148 degrees internally. Remove the pork from the oven, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve the sliced pork over couscous, rice or potatoes with the reserved glaze alongside.

Grilled Smashed Potatoes


Although it may seem as if I let out some aggression and threw tonight's dinner against a wall, in actuality, these rustic potatoes are a new and innovative spin on America's favorite side dish. Usually potatoes are baked, fried, boiled, mashed, smashed or swimming in a pool of butter and cheese. While each method yields a tasty side dish, especially the latter - have you ever tried boiling, smashing, and baking a potato? The end result is a healthy starch, crispy and chewy on the outside and soft in the middle. A new spin on your favorite spud :)


Crash Hot Potatoes

Adapted from By Cristina Ceccatelli Cook
4 servings


Ingredients

  • 9 whole New Potatoes (or Other Small Round Potatoes)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt To Taste
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • Rosemary (or Other Herbs Of Choice) To Taste


Preparation Instructions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in as many potatoes as you wish to make and cook them until they are fork-tender.

On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.

With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.

Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)

Bake in a 450 degree oven on upper third or second rack from top and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Then sprinkle Parmesan right when they come out of oven. If you want to a add a good helping of your favorite cheese either add them in the last few minutes of cooking or pop them under the broiler but watch them carefully so they don't burn.



Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting and how to make caramel sauce


Lately I have been obsessed with cupcakes! I can't believe it's taken me this long to experiment with them. They really are the perfect dessert since you can mix and match as many flavors as your heart desires and never eat the same cupcake ever again - ever! The combinations are endless! I predict many flavor combos in the near future...PB&J cupcakes, cookies and cream, chocolate on chocolate, filled with more chocolate :D

To begin making your sinful creations, you will need to find your favorite cupcake flavor base. Meaning, a tried and true chocolate cupcake, lemon cupcake, or in this case - a vanilla cupcake. The texture and flavor of this cake was spot on and my search for the perfect vanilla cupcake is officially over. The vanilla bean made a huge difference in flavor and the cake itself was light, moist and not too dense. These were so good you could literally pop them into your mouth without any frosting - which we did but had to restrain ourselves after a while since it was getting a little dangerous. My oh my was the cake batter delicious! Anyway, back to the cupcakes.

Since the vanilla flavor is pretty mild, it serves as the perfect canvas to top with any flavored frosting. I chose a salted caramel topping and the salty frosting mixed with the sweet hint of vanilla made for a lovely cupcake.

Hopefully I've inspired you to make your own creations and the sweet aroma of vanilla and cupcakes will fill your home during this holiday season. Happy baking :)


Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Makes 15 cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cake flour (6 oz)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cups sugar

2.5 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup + 2 tbs buttermilk, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners – SPRAY LINERS WITH NONSTICK SPRAY, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 12 wells.) For mini cupcakes, fill each with a little over 1 tablespoon batter. Bake 18-20 minutes (or 8-10 for minis), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats and Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from The Well-Decorated Cake


Salted Caramel Buttercream

makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes
Adapted from Crispy Waffle blog

Ingredients


For the caramel:

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons water

1/2 cup heavy cream

pinch sea salt

1. Wet a pastry brush and brush the sides of the inside of a small saucepan with a bit of water. (You do this so the sugar does not crystallize making your caramel sauce gritty) Add the sugar and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
2. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil and stir pan frequently until it becomes dark amber (think the color of a penny). (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately.
3. Slowly pour in the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Again, be careful as the caramel will start splattering, and will splatter even more if you add the cream too fast. Whisk until combined and smooth and set aside to store and only use half for diesel’s cupcakes

Buttercream
Recipe adapted from How to eat a cupcake blog

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature
*
1 cup confectioners sugar

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160°F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes (It always takes about 5 minutes for me). Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes. 

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the caramel drizzle (I added about 3/4 cup) and beat until combined (or almost combined for a swirling effect), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

Add confectioners sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream.

*You do not want your butter to be too soft. Ideally if you made a indentation into the butter with your finger you would be able to see it and not be too melted. If your butter is too soft then the frosting will not be the right consistency.


Broccoli Pesto and Double Broccoli Quinoa


Broccoli pesto = double broccoli quinoa. Sound exciting? No. Not so much? Well I realize the photo doesn't prompt you to salivate at your computer screen, but don't let its humble appearance deceive you because this was a wonderful surprise! I'm still trying to detox from Thanksgiving so this hit the spot! Dishes like this make me believe I could become a vegetarian or a fruitarian. :) Although, I doubt my carnivorous hubby would approve. The Texan W.M. and sister-in-law would have a field day for sure - it would be the end for this little Korean blogger.

For some reason I can never get excited about describing savory foods as much as I do desserts - so I'll keep this short and sweet. Quinoa is one of my favorite grains and I absolutely heart vegetables. Those two ingredients alone had me hooked and it was a fabulous double whammy of healthiness. Zesty lemon and salty parmesan make this the quintessential side dish for any meal. Add some grilled chicken and you have a perfect meal in itself. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as I did.



Double Broccoli Quinoa
Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks
4 servings

3 cups cooked quinoa*
5 cups raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems

3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 big pinches salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil***

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Optional toppings: slivered basil, fire oil (optional)**, sliced avocado
crumbled feta or goat cheese

Heat the quinoa and set aside.

Now barely cook the broccoli by pouring 3/4 cup water into a large pot and bringing it to a simmer. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for a 2-3 minutes, just long enough to take the raw edge off. Transfer the broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water until it stops cooking. Set aside.

To make the broccoli pesto puree two cups of the cooked broccoli, the garlic, 1/2 cup of the almonds, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse until smooth.

Just before serving, toss the quinoa and remaining broccoli florets with about 1/2 of the broccoli pesto. Taste and adjust if needed, you might want to add more of the pesto a bit at a time (I added half the pesto and seasoned more with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes) or you might want a bit more salt or an added squeeze of lemon juice. Turn out onto a serving platter and top with the remaining almonds, a drizzle of the chile oil, and some sliced avocado or any of the other optional toppings.

*To cook quinoa: rinse one cup of quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, 1.5 cups of chicken broth, and a few big pinches of salt until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 20-25 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

**To make the red chile oil: You'll need 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes. If you can, make the chile oil a day or so ahead of time by heating the olive oil in a small saucepan for a couple minutes - until it is about as hot as you would need it to saute some onions, but not so hot that it smokes or smells acrid or burned. Turn off the heat and stir in the crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside and let cool, then store in refrigerator. Bring to room temp again before using.

***I left my pesto a little chunky - if you want it more pureed add more olive oil. I would even add substitute that with more chicken broth.

Optional: This would also be delicious scrambled with eggs I think :)

Shrimp Mousse Ravioli with Shiitake Cream Sauce


Lobster and I have been eating at this restaurant for years where they serve a delicious shrimp ravioli with shiitake cream sauce. Determined to recreate the dish at home, I came up with this recipe. I'd say for my first run I was pleased with the results. It's so fun trying to recreate meals you've had at restaurants in the comfort of your own home. I was able to use my fancy pasta roller and seriously - nothin' beats homemade pasta! Makes you look like a fancy chef and actually know what you're doing. So if you're looking for a recipe to impress company, this ones definitely a winner.


Shrimp Ravioli with Shiitake Cream Sauce
2 servings

Pasta recipe
1 1/2 cup semolina flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup lukewarm water

Mix ingredients in a food processor. Slowly add water until mixture almost forms into a ball. When you feel the dough it should hold together when you squeeze it with your hand. Mixture should feel moist but not wet. Remove from mixer and shape dough into a ball and knead until smooth 5-10 minutes. Refrigerate and let rest for 30 minutes. Using kitchen aid mixer/pasta attachment follow this recipe to roll out into ravioli.

Shrimp Mousse
Recipe from here
2 servings

Take 1/2 pound shrimp and cut into chunks. In a blender or food processor, whirl shrimp, 1 egg white, 1/3 cup half and half, and 2 teaspoons chopped chives until smoothly pureed. Add salt and white pepper to taste. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 24 hours.


Shiitake Cream Sauce
Adapted from All Recipes

• Shrimp ravioli
• 6 ounces fresh sliced shiitake mushrooms
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup chicken broth
• 1/2 cup half and half
• salt to taste
• ground black pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions
1. Saute garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat; add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add chicken stock and wine, and cook until mixture is reduced to 1/2 volume. Blend in half and half, and reduce to desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Meanwhile cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until ravioli float to the top.
3. Using a slotted spoon add ravioli and toss with sauce until coated. Serve on small warmed plates, topped with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt/Sorbet


Lobster brought a huge box of blueberries home the other day so I played Iron Chef with my secret ingredient. My first thought was blueberry muffins, but for some reason or another my mind shifted to dessert and this sorbet was born. Although the recipe states it's frozen yogurt - it has the consistency of a sorbet more than a fro-yo, so that's what we're callin' it! Sorbets are always so refreshing after a heavy meal and feel more like a palate cleanser then a glutinous dessert to me. It's scary how I can justify things in my mind.

Since the sorbet is made with yogurt it's more figure friendly then some of my other non "ass-friendly" creations like this and this and this. The only downfall of this sorbet is that is freezes rock solid. But I guess it's a good thing since it prevents me from eating out of the container with the freezer door open. Bon appetito!


Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes 1 1/2 quarts


3 cups plain yogurt or greek yogurt
1/3 cup to 1 1/2 cup sugar (depending how sweet you like it - I used 1/3 cup)
¼ tsp salt
6 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tbs vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon

Cook berries, salt and sugar in saucepan over medium heat until berries get soft and dark juices run out of them about 5-10 minutes. Push through strainer then mix with extract and the lemon zest and chill in the fridge for one-two hours.

Freeze in your favorite ice cream maker per their instructions. Enjoy!

Spicy Korean Chicken and a Taco Bar


Wow, I finally did it - I made Korean food. I'm such a disgrace! I'm sure when Lobster married me he expected many Korean meals in his future. Little did he know the time had finally come for wifey to eat true American food. I'm talkin' chicken pot pie, meatloaf, cordon bleu - all those American-y things I'd only seen in the movies. My do I sound like a foreigner. I swear I was born in this country.


Since I literally ate Korean food for breakfast, lunch and dinner - all day, everyday my entire life, I really have no desire to cook it at home. Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone and just serve a traditional Korean meal with meat, some sort of soup and ban-chan. (side dishes) Nope, I had a fusion Korean bbq taco night. The inspiration came from a dinner we had at the Cindyro's and they were delicious. The tacos were equally well received amongst my friends and everyone enjoyed the new twist. Serve with guacamole and pico de gallo, "Taco Tuesdays" here we come!


*I've made Korean tacos before but I enjoyed this chicken recipe more but used the coleslaw from the old recipe which can be found here.



Spicy Korean Chicken

Recipe from Week of Menus

4 servings


Requires marination of at least 8 hours, overnight is better.
Serves 6-8

2-3 lbs boneless, skinless thighs OR BREASTS THAT ARE POUNDED ½” THEN CUT UP INTO 2” PIECES
1/4 cup Korean chili pepper paste (gochujahng)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons mirin (or sake if you can’t find mirin)
1/2 cup onion, pureed (done in a mini prep chopper is perfect)
3 tablespoons ginger
2 tablespoons garlic


In a large bowl, mix all ingredients EXCEPT chicken together. Make sure that the sugar is well incorporatd in the marinade. Wearing gloves (disposable kitchen gloves are perfect for this), use your hand and mix all the chicken into the marinade. Make sure each chicken piece is thoroughly coated and well mixed with the marinade. Try and get the marinade into all the nooks and crannies of your chicken thigh. Cover and marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight.


Heat bbq. The chicken cooks better over lower heat than higher heat as the higher sugar content of the marinade lends itself to burning. Cook for about 7-9 minutes per side over lower heat.


*This does taste best on the bbq grill, but if you cannot grill outside, then use a roasting pan and broil it in your oven - BTW you cannot dry out chicken thighs you can only burn them.