Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baby Artichoke Crostini with Lots of Lemon

Today's post seems so inconsequential today, as I struggle finding the words, knowing what Monet and her family must be going through today.  Please keep Monet from Anecdotes and Apples and her family in your prayers, especially for Joshua.

Spring is still eluding us here in Chicago Land, so I continue to bake and cook like it is Spring. I was having company over the weekend, Joanna and her husband, and wanted to try this new recipe that  I got from Rachael Ray.  Of course, I couldn't leave the recipe alone, and had to add lots of lemon, zest and juice. The original recipe called for herb garlic cheese like Boursin.  I wanted to lighten up the crostini a bit, so I made my own with light cream cheese, garlic, fresh thyme, and a little lemon zest. and juice. I also put lemon juice in the the chopped Baby Artichokes. These are the Baby Artichokes before cleaning.

These Baby Artichokes are so cute, but there is a certain way to clean and cook them. After rinsing the chokes,  snap off the lower petals, until you reach the yellow-green core.  Use a knife to  cut off one-half in of the top.of the Baby Artichoke. Trim the stems and all remaining dark green areas from the base. Now you can slice, halve, or quarter, depending on what is needed for your recipes. Once the chokes are cut, soak in lemon or vinegar water to keep from browning. Here is a link to everything that you wanted to know about Baby Artichokes,  Preparation of Baby Artichokes. Steaming is the preferred way of cooking, either in a steamer or in the microwave.

Now for the recipe
Baby Artichoke Crostini Adapted from Rachel Ray
·         12 baby artichokes, cleaned and cooked, chopped
·         3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
·         1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
·         1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs or whatever fresh herbs you like, such as basil, flat leaf parsley, oregano, etc.
·         Salt and ground black pepper
·         12 thin slices of French bread
·         1 block herbed soft cheese (5 ounces), such as Boursin brand,  I used light cream cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.

In a medium size mixing bowl, toss together the artichokes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, herbs, zest and juice of one lemon, and some salt and pepper. Set aside.
Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.. Pop the bread into the oven and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Herb Cream Cheese

1- 8 oz block light cream cheese
1-clove garlic-grated
1-lemon juice and zest.
1-Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped or dried; thyme, flat leaf parsley, or herbs of your choice. 

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix well. You can make this spread ahead of time for flavors to blend. Spread some soft cheese over each slice of bread, top with a spoonful of the marinated artichokes and serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pink Velvet Cupcakes and a Guest Baker

 You have all heard of the Red Velvet Cupcakes with very red cake, well these cupcakes have a much lighter color, a delicate pink, and they are so pretty and delicious. They are belated birthday wishes from my friend and Guest baker, Joanna.  She was so sweet and made these for me. Joanna is a wonderful baker, and loves to bake, especially with her new Artisan Mixer:)

 She adapted the recipe from Taste of Home . Joanna used Vanilla Butter Cream frosting, instead of the White Chocolate Ganache, which the original recipe used. She also used gel food coloring. but you could also use the pink paste color.  These cupcakes are perfect for any Princess birthday party, shower, or if you just want to feel all girly and giggly.  Thanks Joanna!

Pink Velvet Cupcakes from Taste of Home
Yields 24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pink paste food coloring
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and food coloring until
  • light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each
  • addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking
  • soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk
  • beating well after each addition.
  • Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for
  • 23-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes
  • out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire
  • racks to cool completely. 

Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting

1 cup, 2 sticks, butter softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Beat butter with mixer until fluffy.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in milk and vanilla, until desired consistency.  Frost or pipe on cupcakes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grilled Pork Chops witn BBQ Marinade and Sweet Potatoes

I was so lucky to win to box full of wonderful Tex-Mex sauces and marinades from Wendy,  The Weekend Gourmet.  We used the Pecos 83 BBQ from Cookwell  &Company.  The marinade was so good, with a smoky flavor and a  little bit of heat. See those grill marks? Perfect, even, if they are a little charred. We just coated the boneless chops in the marinade, put in a plastic bag, and refrigerated for a couple of hours. Scott always like the food to marinate for a couple of hours, so the marinade can penetrate the chops. Now that the weather is getting warmer for some people, get outside and grill.  We do grill all year long!  Thank you Mr. Weber!

We also grilled sweet potatoes, brushed with a little olive oil, and they are the best. The grill caramelizes the sweet potatoes into a yummy goodness.  If you have never grilled sweet potatoes, run to the store and buy some. They have complex carbs, dietary fiber, beta carotene, and vitamins A, C, and B6, as well as calcium and iron. According to Wikipedia and the Center for Science  in the Public Iinterest, sweet potatoes ranked highest in nutritional value of all vegetables. The best way to cook them to retain the most nutritional value is "health steaming" for 7 minutes.  Who new the little orange or purple sweet potatoes pack a nutritional wallop?  Sweet potatoes also have a lower GI index, good for diabetics. I new that they were good for you and better for you than white or red potatoes, but never realized all of the  health benefits. Of cours, I like cinnamon on them:)

My family is having a belated birthday Tex-Mex Fiesta in a couple of weeks to use several of the other products that I won, stay tuned.  Now, I was in Dallas many years ago, but that's the only place that I've Texas. San Antonio and Austin here I come, someday!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blueberry Scones With Lemon Glaze and Mr. Fix-It

Even though the calendar says Spring, Mother Nature is still not cooperating. So, I am cooking and baking like it's Spring.  Remember, Spring is a state of mind, in Chicago. Lemon is another wonderful flavor that speaks "Spring" to me. The bright sunny color of luscious lemons, gives any any recipe a ""pop" of flavor. I had blueberries in the freezer, and wanted to make these scones .Even though I didn't defrost the blueberries, and gently folded then in, they still bled a little bit.  How do you keep your blueberries from bleeding through in your baked recipes.?   They looked a little blue, when they came out of the oven, so I thought I would make a lemon glaze to put over them, dress them up a bit, and give them a little lemon zest as well. The lemon glaze goes so well with the blueberries, and now they actually look quite sunny, don't you think?  They are the only sun, that we will be seeing for awhile, according to the weather station.

I got this recipe from Mary Beth Manfredini, the wife of Lou Manfredini, Mr. Fix-It.  Lou gives home repair and maintenance information, as well as his wife's recipes, on NBC's today Show, and his weekly radio show on WGN Radio in Chicago.. The scones were so easy to make, and you could easily double the recipe. The scones are so soft and tender inside, they almost melt in your mouth. This a very versatile recipe and you could use almost any fresh  or dried fruit, nuts, even Nutella:)  I'll have to try the Nutella next!

Blueberry Scones  Adapted from Mary Beth Manfredini
Preheat oven to 400 degrees  Make about 9 medium size scones.

1 ½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2/3 cup buttermilk, or sour milk

1/3 cup melted butter

2/3 cup blueberries (or whatever you want to put in - kids love chocolate chips)

Mix all ingredients together with a fork, until sticky.  Drop by tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown.

Lemon Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice and
1 Tbsp lemon zest
Lemon zest for garnish

Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice and zest in small bowl, Mix until well combined.  Spread over scones, and garnish with glaze.

Dress Update:
I am happy to report that the Bride finally found a dress, several days after  went shopping with the Bride and her Mom.  She wanted to go back to the first place she went to try on a dress again.  It happened that the Bridal shop was having a trunk show that weekend, and a dress, that she had never seen before and fell in love with, came in early.  It was pure fate. Now, the Bride found "The Dress".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday! Happy Spring? Put The Lime in the Coconut Cake!

Yes, yesterday was my birthday, the first day of astronomical Spring. If you have a March birthday, you very rarely have a very nice day, weather wise.  The first day of Spring in Chicago land is a state of mind.  We have had a terrible winter, and everyone is so looking forward to birds, chirping, green grass, and trees budding. But this is what we get.
If the picture looks a little dark. that's because there is no sun, and look at the thermometer.

We won't be having "real spring" weather for about another 3-4 weeks. In the meantime we have to surround ourselves "Spring things',  like Coconut Lime Cake, roses, and strawberries.  All of these things speak of Spring to me as well as shedding layers of jackets, scarves, gloves, and hats for light hoodies and sweatshirts.
My husband did surprise me with the gorgeous roses.  If any of you know the name of these, let me know.  All I know is that they are gorgeous. They are pale cream or pink with red or dark pink edges.   We won't be having our family birthday party for one my sons, his wife, and me, until April 9th, so Happy Birthday to me.
I love this Coconut Lime Cake, which is aptly named Put The Lime in the Coconut Cake, which I adapted from  Food Network.  I you love lime, and coconut and cake, you are going to love this cake.  Because I didn't want a whole big cake around the house, I bought little mini cake pans. Aren't they cute. I'm taking a page out of Lindsey's book:) I cut the recipe in half, which worked out perfectly for three little cake pans. The cake has coconut milk.   After the cake comes out of the oven, and has cooled,  you poke holes in the cake, and pour a glaze over the cake, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the glaze is set.  I used a buttercream frosting, instead of the cream cheese frosting,  with more coconut milk and lime juice, and then sprinkled these little babies with coconut.  These little cakes are sooo limey and coconutty, Oh my!  Enjoy.

My, sweet friend Monet from Anecdotes and Apples,  has suffered another family tragedy.  Her oldest sister and her family were in a terrible accident, her nephew passed away, and her sister and brother in law are in critcal condition. If you haven't already, please reach out to Monet and her family, and send her love, prayers, and support.  She needs all of us more than ever.

Put the Lime in the Coconut Cake
 Adapted from Food Net work    Serves:10 to 12.servings
  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar, I didn’t add
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
Frosting: This is half a recipe. To frost a whole cake, double the recipe
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  •  2 Tbsp  coconut milk,
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans. ( I used 3 mini 4"X1" pans)  In an electric mixer or using a hand beater, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add coconut extract and eggs 1 at a time. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and powder. To mixer add coconut milk and flour to creamed mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes then remove the little cakes onto rack(s) and allow to cool completely.

For Glaze: In a medium bowl combine  sour cream or yogurt, I used Greek yogurt, sugar, lime zest and juice, coconut milk, shredded coconut. I didn’t use the sugar, because I had to get the sweetened coconut milk.With a bamboo skewer or plastic straw, poke holes in cake and spread glaze on both sides of both cakes. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to frost cake.

In an electric mixer or using a hand mixer beat together the butter, until well blended and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar gradually at low speed. Beat in coconut milk and lime juice.  Frost cake.  Sprinkle top with shredded coconut.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shrimp Creole for Meatless Meals

Shrimp Creole is perfect for meatless meals and is very versatile. It is bascially a one pot meal, and can be made in about one hour. We make a lot of one pot meals on weekends for lunches during the week.  You can also use fresh chicken, breasts or bone-in for this recipe. This creole has a wonderful sauce with tomatoes, the "Trinity", onions, green peppers, and celery, which is used most of the time in Creole cooking. Then the spices are added; chili powder, Hungarian paprika, and Smoky paprika, along with the garlic. You can vary the amount of shrimp or chicken that you use, depending on how may people you are serving.. This recipe serves 6 healthy portions, with lots of sauce.  You can also freeze the sauce. I'm sure that you could adapt this recipe to the slow cooker, but I have never done so.

This recipe will free up your time to enjoy the Spring weather, if you are lucky to have it;)  Go fly a kite with the kids, go to the park, or a bike ride.get out there and  soak up the rays, but remember your sunscreen.  Enjoy! 
 Shrimp Creole

2 C. chopped onion
1 c. chopped green pepper
1 c. chopped celery
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ c. white wine
2Tbsp. chill powder
2 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in puree, chopped. I use Dell’Alpe**
2Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1/2Tbsp. smoky paprika
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lb of raw shrimp, defrosted
Fresh parsley for garnish

1. In large pot w/3Tbsp olive oil, sauté onions, green pepper, garlic and celery for
3 min on medium heat.
2. Add chili powder and paprika, continue cooking for 3 more min.
3. Add wine, tomatoes, and black pepper. Reduce to a simmer.
Cover and cook for 35 min. Add shrimp and simmer for 3-5 min, until Shrimp is done and pink.
 4. Serve w/ rice.

** If you use tomatoes not in puree, drain liquid from tomatoes, and add
1 small can of tomato sauce.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bailey's and Coffee Brownie Cupcakes

Bailey's and Coffee is my favorite after dinner drink.   I love the the smoothness of the Bailey's in a hot steaming cup of coffee, there's nothing better.  So when I wanted to make cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day, there was no question,  I wanted Bailey's in the cupcake. I've been missing my cupcakes lately.  Remember my friend, Stef, from Cupcake Project?  She had made cupcakes with Irish coffee, but I much prefer Bailey's. After all, Bailey The Wonder Dog is named for the Irish cream liqueur, because of her cream and caramel coloring. You can check Stef's Irish Coffee Brownie Cupcakes. I did adapt my cupcakes from Stef's recipe.

There is a surprise on the bottom, a brownie.  You make a separate brownie batter and put in on top of the Bailey's and Cream batter.  My brownie batter fell to the bottom, because it was heavier, but these cupcakes are so light and moist, and there's the chocolaty brownie on the bottom. Amazing! . There is is also a distinct coffee flavor, because you infuse the milk for the cupcake batter with roasted coffee beans. You put the coffee beans and the milk in the pan, bring just to boiling, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 15 min.  Then, you strain the milk out, and set aside.  For all of you coffee lovers,  this pure heaven. Then to top of these wonderful cupcakes,  you make Bailey's and Coffee Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting.  Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!  Just remember, everybody is Irish on St. Pat's Day!

Bailey's and Coffee Brownie Cupcakes  Adapted from Cupcake Project

Yield: 16 cupcakes

Brownie Ingredients::
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, mix in egg and vanilla until well combined Mix in Cocoa powder, flour, and salt until combined. Set aside.

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 c whole milk- I used 2%
1 c whole roasted coffee beans
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 c unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c Bailey's Irish Cream
Brownie Batter form above


In a small saucepan on medium high, heat milk and coffee beans, until just boiling.
Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 15 min.
Strain out milk from beans.  Put in small bowl and set aside.  You only need 3/4 c of milk, so some of the milk might stick to the beans in the process, and that's OK.

Pre heat oven to 350 F

In a medium sized bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.
Add eggs to butter sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.
In a small bowl, mix the Bailey's and 3/4 c of the coffee infused milk.
Alternately mix the  wet and dry ingredients, into the butter sugar mixture, beating until just combined.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full with cupcake batter.
Spoon 1 heaping tbsp of brownie batter in center of each cupcake.

Bake 25 min, or until pick inserted in center, comes out clean.  Cool on rack.

Bailey's and Coffee Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temp
3 C powdered sugar
3/4 c  unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream
1 Tbsp strong coffee

In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter.
Gradually beat in powdered sugar, a little bit at a time, until well incorporated
Mix in cocoa powder, Bailey's and coffee gradually, until desired consistency.

Frost or pipe on cooled cupcakes.  Slainte!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Corned Beef and Cabbage and a Mystery!

I had a  very hard time writing this post, because the words weren't coming, and my mind is on the victims and families of the horrific disasters that have happened in Japan. How can I write about a happy holiday here, when I can't even imagine what it is like in Japan at this moment. My heart and prayers go out to the people of Japan.  I have a widget at the top left of my page, if you want to donate.  Thank you!  I just feel so helpless, and want to contribute in a small way.

We always make a Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner around St. Patrick's Day, so we made one yesterday. I am usually able to find low sodium corned beef, but not this year.  I had to settle for the regular corned beef, with all of that sodium, so I only bought a small piece, but is was very lean, except for the fat around the top, which I cut off.  We put the corned beef in a pot on the stove and simmered until tender We love carrots, so we put in a whole bag of carrots, red potatoes " B" size, and a small head of cabbage . This is Scott's plate, he likes cabbage, me not so much.

Now, for the mystery.  What is in this glass?  It's green and has bubbles. You don't have to necessarily drink it  for St Patrick's Day, because it is green all of the time. You can buy this, it isn't something that you make. You might be showing your age if, you know what this is.  Give up?

It's Green River soda!!! I'm probably showing my age, but I can remember going to the corner drugstore, sitting at the soda fountain, and ordering a Green River. I could have ordered a Vanilla Coke, a Chocolate Coke, a Cherry Coke, or if your were really brave, you get a Suicide Coke.  A suicide coke was a mixture of all the flavors of Coke. For those of you who don't know about Green River soda,  it's even on Wikipedia!  What would we go without Google and Wikipedia?  According to Wikipedia, Green River Soda was first manufactured in 1919 by a brewery in Chicago, as a nonn-alcholic Prohibition drink.  Once Prohibition ended, Green River fell out of favor. It was later a soda  fountain drink in the 60's.  Maybe your parents had Green River Soda? It is now manufactured in Chicago The bottle is now plastic, and they even have a Diet version. It's a very limey drink, no wonder I like it.  If you can find it in your area, try it!  You might like it!

Back to the recipe:
Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 3 lb Corned Beef Brisket, preferably flat, cut spice packet was included
4 clove of garlic, smashed
1 med onion quartered
2 bay leaves
1 lb of whole carrots cut in chunks
1 lb of red potatoes, 'B" size
1 small head of cabbage, quartered

Place brisket in a pot with garlic, onion, bay leaves and content of spice packet.  Cover with water, bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer.  wait 5 min, and skim off foam. Continue simmering, until meat begins to get tender.  Add carrots and potatoes.  Continue simmering for 15 min, and then add cabbage.  Cook until cabbage is tender, approximately 15 min.  .

Slice meat and serve with vegetables.  Slainte!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mini Irish Soda Bread

I have seen a lot of mini sized dishes and desserts across the blogosphere, and decided to make my Irish Soda Bread, mini size.  Don't they look cute? Now, I did put raisins in them, because we always have. and my husband likes. a little sugar, too,  but with a last name of Higgins, we can. 
Most Irish Soda bread is just flour, buttermilk,   or sour milk,  bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and salt, not even an egg or butter, or dried fruit.. The buttermilk  or sour milk and the baking soda,  react to make the bread rise, without yeast.  As with most foods, there are many variations of the bread, ingredients and shapes, however. for more history and recipes here is Peter Mum's Soda Bread-Recipe. Just remember, wear green on St. Patrick's Day and  everybody is Irish! I even made a loaf, but I made it too wide, so the X doesn't show.  It's very good.
Irish Soda Bread  Adapted from Peter Mum's Soda Bread recipe for 1batch of mini breads or one loaf
  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 3  tablespoons  margarine or butter
  • 1/4  cup  raisins (optional)
  • 1    egg white, slightly beaten
  • 3/4  cup  buttermilk
  •     Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Cut in margarine or butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins, if desired. Make a well in the center of the mixture. 

2. In a small mixing bowl combine egg white and buttermilk. Add all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened. 

3. On a lightly floured surface knead dough 10 to 12 strokes until nearly smooth. the less the dough is handled the more tender the bread or muffins. If handled too much, the bread will be tough.  For the minis, spray muffin pan and fill cups 3/4 c full.  for the loaf, shape into a 7-inch round loaf

4. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray Place bread dough on baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make 2 slashes in the top to form an X, or spray a muffin pan..
Brush the muffins or bread dough with egg wash, if you want.

5. Bake in a 375 degree F oven about 30 minutes or until golden for loaf. .  For mini size bake 18-22 min., until skewer inserted in middle, comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 1 loaf (16 servings) or 9 muffin sized breads. Slainte

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spicy Coconut Soup with Broccoli and Shrimp

 Just in time for Lent and meatless meals,  here is a wonderful soup with shrimp, broccoli , onion,  garlic,and red bell pepper in a flavorful broth with curry powder, crushed red pepper, coconut  milk and chicken stock.This soup is easy to make,  is low in sodium and fat, and tastes so good.  As the broth simmers, your kitchen will smell so good!. The recipe is versatile, because the original recipe has fresh spinach, but I didn't have any, so I subbed broccoli.  The recipe also called for red curry paste, and I  used regular curry powder. I looked at red curry paste in the grocery store, and almost dropped the bottle, when I saw that it had 920 mg of sodium for 2 tsp.! Yikes. Obviously, I didn't buy it. I had made this soup before I saw Boulder Locavore's  post on making your own curry paste, which I will have to do.

When I first started blogging, I wanted to use my tried and true recipes, the go to recipes that you knew by heart.  Now, the longer I blog, the more adventurous I am becoming with my cooking and baking, thanks to all of my Foodbuzz friends. I am discovering all sorts of food I had never used or seen before like pomegranates, dragon fruit, quinoa, Nutella, just to name a few.  Thank you all for the inspiration to better with every post.

Now, back to the soup.  I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light 2006, and it is delicious.

Spicy Coconut Soup with Broccoli and Shrimp-
Adapted from Cooking Light 2006
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  red curry paste, or regular curry powder.
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 1  pound  medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen broccoli, or fresh spinach
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes. Add curry paste or curry powder and red pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and coconut milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and broccoli (We don’t like mushy broccoli).  Cook 4 minutes or until shrimp and broccoli are done.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

King Cake for Mardi Gras

Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras is next Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.  You know what that means?  There will be lots of partying with Hurricanes, King Cake, and Cajun food over the coming week. If you are not going to be in New Orleans for the festivities, there is still time to make a King Cake, and "get your beads on."  Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez !  
I have never been to NOLA, but hope to get there one day, and it's on my bucket list. I had made King Cake before for my Bunco Group many years ago.  Here is the back story.  When I was in the corporate world in Inside Sales for a major corporation, part of my territory was Louisiana and I had many customers in NOLA and the surrounding areas. Preceding Mardi Gras one year, I received not one but two King Cakes via Fed Ex, and each one was different, and equally delicious, and that's when I l fell in love with King Cake.   I kept  some the decorations that were on those cakes and here they are.. (I'm a keeper, but not a hoarder.)

There are three basic symbols that every King cake has; the baby, which represents the Christ child, the beads, and the the three colors of Mardi Gras, Purple for Justice and Passion, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power. A miniature ceramic or plastic baby is hidden in the cake, and whoever finds it, has to  have the next party or buy the next King Cake.  If you don't have a baby, you can use a nut in place of it.  There are many versions of the King Cake, and each bakery does theirs a little different.  On one of the King Cakes that I received, it had a Crown for King Rex and a Chalice.  If you would like more information  for the King Cake or Mardi Gras information,  use this link  Mardi Gras History

Back to the King Cake, Most of you know that I don't do yeast recipes.  I had a fear of yeast, except that I made this cake once, a long time ago. It's like doing wallpaper to me.  You don't do it that often, and you forget all the steps, and how to do it, until you're almost done.  I didn't know how the yeast was supposed to look "foaming" , because the recipe that I used had you combine the yeast,  sugar, butter, egg yolks, and  warmed milk in the bowl and slowly mix in the stand mixer with the bread hook for four minutes. Oh My! I was hoping  that the yeast gods were smiling on me.  I wished that I had Monet', or Brandie, or Sandra's   phone number to call for help.  I did call my son the Chef/Baker who has yeast rolls, and said that everything should be fine. In the end everything did work out, but I started at 1;30pm and finally got the sugar on the glaze about 7:30PM.  I did have a nap, while during the first rise of the dough.:) I kept thinking about all of you out there, who bake wonderful yeast breads and rolls, how do you do it?

There are many different types and versions of King Cakes, and there is not one "Official"  recipe. I adapted a recipe from Emeril LaGasse, because he used a cream cheese filling.
King Cake Adapted from of Emeril Lagasse, Food Network
  • 2 packages dry active yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup warm milk(110 degrees F)
  • 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Purple, green and gold sugar sprinkles
  • Plastic baby toy
Preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Combine the yeast, sugar, butter, and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the milk. With the mixer on low speed, beat the mixture for about 4 minutes to dissolve the yeast. If the yeast mixture doesn't begin to foam after a few minutes, it means it's not active and will have to be replaced. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Add this mixture to the yeast mixture.

 Mix on low speed until it lightly comes together, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and climbs slightly up the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Coat the dough with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set in a warm, draft-free place, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours

. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Mix well. In another small bowl, combine the remaining powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk. Mix well and set aside. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out 30 inches long and 6 inches wide. Spread the cream cheese filling across the center of the dough. Bring the two long edges together and seal all sides completely.
 Using your hands shape the dough into a long cylinder and place on a greased baking sheet, seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring. Cover the ring with a towel and place in a warm, draft free place. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the cake to cool.  Drizzle the cake with the sugar glaze Sprinkle the cake with sprinkles, alternating colors.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cherry Berry Walnut Granola Bars and the Winner is Me!

I saw Brown Eyed Baker's Basic Granola Bar Recipe and I knew that I had to make them for my husband, who is always looking for something sweet after dinner.  These bars are very versatile, and you can customize them any way that you want. There are 5 basic components:  rolled grains; nuts, spices, and seeds; sticky sweetener, dried fruits: and a binder.I chose dried cherries, craisins, raisins, walnuts, honey, rolled oats, unsweetened applesauce with a Tbsp. of peanut butter, and of course cinnamon. Check out Brown Eyed Bakers combinations and possibilities, and then make your own healthy granola bars, Yum!  These bars are quick and easy, and you can make them with ingredients in your pantry.

First, you mix the honey, the applesauce, peanut butter, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Then you add the rolled oats to the wet mixture. Be sure that all the oats are moistened.  Then you add in the chopped dried fruits and nuts.  I put mine in 9X9 pan, because I wanted them thinner, but if you want them thicker, use a 8X8 pan.  Bake in the oven for 25 min, and then put in freezer for 1 hour to firm up, and then you can cut in bars.  My turned out more like squares,  and a little clumpy. but these are so yummy, and not very sweet at all.

Over the past two weeks , I have been the winner of two giveaways, Lucky Me!  The first giveaway I won was from Wendy, The Weekend Gourmet courtesy of Cookwell & Company. Thank you so much! I got a whole box full of wonderful products, and they're from Austin, TX. Here they are from left to right:   Two-Step Chili Mix. Grilled Pineapple and Candied Jalapeno Sweet Heat Sauce, Green Chile Stew Mix, Escabeche Style Salsa, Pepper and Mustard Blend BBQ Sauce, and finally Pecos 83 BBQ marinade. Whew!, That was heavy box.Because I had receives all of these wonderful products, from Wendy complements of Cookwell & Co., I told Wendy to send me here wish list from Trader Joe's, and would send her a few products, which Idid last week.  In return, she is sending me a few more products from Texas. I love blogging!
My family has three birthdays this month so we're planning a Mexican Fiesta, to use many of these products More to come.  You wouldn't think that scheduling three couples would be a problem, but believe me it is.

The other Giveaway I won was from  Veronica at Quay Po Cooks , who is in Malaysia. She sent these beautiful  glass bead earrings. Soo pretty!  Look at the beautiful stamps and . green is my favorite color. She cooks both Western and traditional Chinese cuisine.Hop on over to her blog, it's lovely.  Thank you Veronica for the earrings, I love them. If you look closely you can see that I'm wearing the earrings in the picture below. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cinnamon Walnut Loaf or Sustenance To Go Shopping for "The Dress"

Sunday I had the honor and pleasure to go shopping with my future-Daughter-in-Law and her Mom to find "The Dress."  We had so much fun., however she didn't decide on "The Dress", yet. She has to narrow down her choices.

Because we were on a tight schedule between the train and Bridal shop appointments, we wouldn't have time to have a nice leisurely lunch.  I knew that we needed a tasty snack, high in protein.  If you don't know by now, I love, love, love, cinnamon, the more the better. I found this recipe for a Cinnamon Walnut Loaf that had sour cream. I now have discovered Greek yogurt, which as a thick creamy texture, and  health benefits, lots of protein. a 6 oz. container of  plain Greek yogurt has 17  gr of protein.  I made this wonderful Cinnamon Walnut Loaf, which was not only delicious and cinnamony with crunchy walnuts, but filling as well.  Good Bye Dannon! We only had time between appointments to make a quick Starbucks run, and munch on this wonderful bread, which kept us going.  Of course there was a little adrenalin, too:)

I don't have a picture of the "The Dress", but I do have a picture of the huge container of Saigon Cinnamon, which has a much richer flavor and color, than regular cinnamon.If you love cinnamon, run don't walk to  your nearest Costco and get your self some of this cinnamon.  It's wonderful, and the best thing that it was $2.76 in Illinois.

In this recipe the initial step is to brush the inside of the loaf pan with melted butter and sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar mixture.  Do not Skip this step! .The edges and bottom of the bread get a wonderful sugar  cinnamon coating. Soo good and moist!

Cinnamon Walnut Loaf
Adapted fro Leah Eskin’s, Standoffish Cinnamon Loaf
Pre-Heat oven to 325degrees

2 teaspoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar
11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
13/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Mix: Brush a large loaf pan with the melted butter. Stir together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon,  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cinnamon mixture along the bottom and sides of the pan. Mix the rest with the walnuts and set aside.

2. Fold: Cream softened butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar with an electric mixer. Crack in eggs; fluff. Measure in Greek yogurt and vanilla; fluff. Whisk together flour, and soda.. Sprinkle flour mixture over yogurt mixture fold gently. Mix in half the nut mixture; fold once or twice, aiming for a marbled effect.

3. Bake: Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Top with remaining nut mixture. Slide into a 325-degree oven and bake until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, 50 -60 minutes. Cool a bit, turn out on rack.  Enjoy!

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