Wednesday, June 23, 2010

birthday party for kids

My daughter just turned 2.  Not kidding! I can't believe it, myself!  This lucky girl got to celebrate a couple of times because on her actual birthday we made roasted banana cupcakes (bananas are her favorite food and monkeys are her favorite animal, so I found it very fitting) with honey cinnamon frosting.  And then, she's lucky enough to have a best friend who has the same name as her, who happens to celebrate her birthday less than 2 weeks before!  So we had a mini birthday party for the girls with mini oreo cheesecakes for each person.  So happy birthday to my sweetie.  Hope you enjoyed all of the treats!  (Because you're not getting any for a while after last weekend;) )

Both of these recipes come from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, which I got for my birthday from my friend Lori.  Cupcakes are so trendy in food these days, and for good reason.  It's such a fun way to entertain.  And cupcakes can be anything from really simple and casual to very decadent and elegant.  I love reading through it and learning more about decorating and baking.  It has a TON of amazing ideas and recipes, so go out and get this book!  If you have kids, or somehow have become the go-to person for bridal/baby showers, you'll really appreciate having this in your library.

Roasted Banana Cupcakes (frosting recipe follows)
makes 16~18 (weird number, I know.  Just do it in 2 muffin pans with 9 in each)

3 ripe bananas, plus 1 for garnish
2 C cake flour, sifted
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
3/4 C sugar
3 large eggs, seperated
1/2 C sour cream
1 t pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes (the peels will darken and the fruit will release some liquid).  Meanwhile, sift together cake flour baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Remove bananas from oven and let cool before peeling them.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is fully encorporated, scraping down sides as needed. Add roasted bananas, and beat in to combine.  Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream in 2 batches, and beat until just combined after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In another mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks; fold one third of the white into the batter to lighten.  Gently fold the rest of the whites in 2 batches until no streaks remain, careful to avoid deflating the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Honey-Cinnamon Frosting

2 C confectioner's sugar
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T honey
1/4 t ground cinnamon

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients together until smooth.  Use immediately.  If storing, store in an airtight container up to 5 days.  Bring to room temperature and beat until smooth before using.

Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
makes 24+
The beauty of this recipe is how simple but delicious it is.  Isn't it genius to use an oreo on the bottom?

1 pack of original (not double stuffed) oreos, 24~30 left whole and 15 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese (yup. that's 4 packages)
1 C sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 C sour cream
pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 275°F.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese unti smooth, scraping down sides as needed.  Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined.  Add vanilla.
  3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, betaing to combine and scraping down sides as needed.  Beat in sour cream and salt.  Stir in the chopped cookies by hand.  (don't want to over mix or the batter will start to turn grey.)
  4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-filled cups, filling each almost to the top.  Bake, rotating tine halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely.  Refrigerate (in tins) at least 4 hours, or up to overnight.  Remove from tins just before serving.

so behind

June is the busiest month for me.  We have about 8 birthdays in our extended family, 2 of those are me and my daughter.  And then there's father's day.  And this year, we're taking a trip to Utah!  Hooray!  So I've been busy.  Lots of cooking that I need to catch up on!  So to you loyal readers that have had nothing to read, I'm sorry.  I'm here.  I'm alive.  I'm well.  I'm happy!  And I'm still in the kitchen ... just not so much on the computer.  So here I am, ready to fill you in on the delicious treats we've been eating.  A lot of it has been desserts, which I doubt anyone has much of a problem with.  Except maybe  Melissa, who I'm always trying to impress with my healthy "gourmet" (or just not "diet) recipes.  So Meliss, I'll post some yummy Japanese recipes for you so you and Katelyn can make them together!  Meanwhile, ignore these posts and read this book.  You'll love it.

So maybe I'll work backwards.  For my sweetheart, I decided only the most decadent would be acceptable.  So I made him the gorgeous coconut pudding.  It was divine!  And the caramel sauce on top made it even more unbelievable evil for your body.  But it's father's day, right?  Just go run a few extra miles!

I can't claim the recipe for this one, so I'll just direct you to it.  It was so easy, and so rich!  And bursting with fresh coconut flavor.  You just have to make this!  But one thing.  PLEASE don't use sweetened coconut flakes.  Go to a health food store and buy unsweetened flakes.  It's cheaper and so much better tasting.  And sweetened coconut flakes would make this delight much too craggy and dense and ... of course, much too sweet.

You can find the recipe here.  Except I use the classic caramel sauce I always use from this genius foodblogger.
 Isn't it just beautiful?  I promise, it tastes as good as it looks.

best treat ever

I've introduced the amazing one ingredient ice cream to all of you, and now it's time for another delicious slightly less guilty frozen treat.  I am in love!  It's not what I'd call "healthy" by any means, but it is definitely FULL of chocolate flavor without any fat.  I am completely in love with this recipe and I think I'll be making it again and again.

I don't drink coffee, and everywhere I read, chefs and foodies say coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate, so I use a natural coffee substitute called Pero.  And it's true.  That dark, rich, bitter taste really heightens the flavor of chocolate.  SO good.

Chocolate Sorbet
makes roughly 2 quarts
2 C sugar (I used evaporated pure cane sugar and gave it a whirl in the food processor to make it super fine.  But of course, normal granulated sugar works great)
1 C high quality cocoa powder (this is the main ingredient so you definitely want it to taste good)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 coarse sea salt
1/4 C Pero, "bloomed" in 1/3 C boiling water
  1. In a large saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.Stir in 4 C water and the pero/water mixture.  Cook over low heat until the ingredients are completely dissolved.
  2. Transfer to a large container and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours.
  3. Once the mixture is well chilled, freeze the mixture in 2 batches in your ice cream maker, according to manufacturer's directions.  The sorbet will still be very soft, so place it into plastic containers with lids that seal.  Place a sheet or parchment or plastic wrap right against the surface before sealing the lid.  This will prevent freezer burn and keep it fresh longer.  Freeze for at least an hour, until firm enough to scoop.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

more cravings

I was reading through a cookbook and came across a pan banga and HAD to have it right away.  But I didn't have all of the ingredients, so I had to improvise, and it was really good!  But I'm going to go out and buy the right ingredients and make it again.

trying new things

Has it really been a week and a half since my last post?  Sheesh!  Well, this should make up for it.  I love risotto, but I rarely ever make it.  There's something about standing in front of the pot, constantly stirring that is just too much work.  Especially compared to the usual dump, rinse, and push a button that is required of me when I use my most frequently used kitchen appliance: the handy dandy rice cooker.  Couldn't live without that thing.

Anyway, I found a new recipe for barley risotto, and I had to give it a try.  With completely different add-ins.  Now, I realize that risotto comes from riso, which means "rice" but apparently you can use the same technique for some other grains.  And it really worked well with pearled barley.  It turns out a little chewy, and it's really delicious.  And I thing making it with eggplant and mushrooms was a good idea.  Yum!
1 cup pearled barley
3 C vegetable or chicken stock (buy low-sodium, but it's best--and so cheap and easy--to make it yourself)
2 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 T minced parsley
2 Japanese eggplant, stem and end removed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
8 oz white button, shiitake, or cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed (removed for shiitake), and sliced
1/2 freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring stock and 2 C water to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cover, to keep warm.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat.  Toss in the eggplant, season lightly with salt and pepper.  Flip over, and cook through.  Eggplant should have a soft, creamy texture on the inside.  If it's at all spongy, it's underdone.  Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside on a plate.  Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper, and let brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium.  Add onion, season with salt and pepper, cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add barley; cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.  Add 1/2 C stock; cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  4. Ladle in about 2 more cups of stock; cook, stirring frequently until almost completely absorbed.  About 10 minutes.  Continue to add 1 C of stock at a time, waiting for the liquid to be almost completely absorbed before adding more, until barley is tender and the mixture is creamy, 40~50 minutes.
  5. Add in sauteed eggplant and mushrooms.  Remove from heat, stir parsley and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, garnished with more cheese.


I love food that has lots of color.  And fish tacos have lots of color.  (And to prove it to you, this photo is completely untouched) It was such a simple meal, and SO delicious, I can't believe we don't make these more often.  It's going to be a Summer standard, I think.

I don't really think I need to write a recipe since it was so simple.  I just pan fried some well seasoned white flesh fish (tilapia, in this case).   I just seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little cumin, and then squeezed some fresh lime over the top.  I combined it with finely shredded red cabbage, avocado, fresh salsa*, sour cream, some sauteed fresh corn, cheese, and some lime juice on top of it all.  Yum!
* for the salsa:

juice of 1 lime

1/2 vidalia onion, diced small (if you don't have vidalia, use any onion, dice small and soak in water for at least 30 minutes, changing the water at least twice)
4~6 sweet tomatoes or 1 whole package grape/cherry tomatoes, diced small
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine (and I mean FINE)
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Serve.