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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Loaded Savory Muffins

[Editor's Note, post script] It's been about 5 hours since I made these, and I've eaten four. I double checked my ingredient list to make sure I didn't add crack somewhere along the way, but nope...didn't see any. So, fair warning: These things might cause your family to call A&E and hold an intervention. [/Note]

I'll be the first to admit I went a little overboard when making breakfast this morning. It ended up being a bit of a "clean out your fridge" recipe. I started with scallions, sundried tomatoes, shallots, red pepper, and kalamata olives...and then I thought, "Wait! I still have that artichoke bruschetta topping left over. That'd be good!" And then when I plucked the jar out of the fridge, I saw a package of soy crumbles that I'd opened last week and need to be used. So I threw those in. And then I realized I had a container of feta I had bought for...something... and figured, why not?

It got away from me a bit. But I'm so glad it did.

I had been wanting to make something like a frittata for some time now, and when my 5 year old son crawled into bed with me this morning and asked what we were having for breakfast, that's what I figured I'd make. But I wasn't really in the mood for eggs. Once inspiration hit, I'm sure I got that glazed look again, and the mind went wandering.

Muffins may be the world's perfect food. Fluffy, tender, portable, and you can put just about anything into them. From blueberries to cheese to sausage, it's the most versatile food there is. "Salad", as varied as it can be, doesn't even come close because how often do you see someone managing to grab a salad on the way out the door and eat it while driving to work? Not likely. Eat your heart out salad, it's muffins for the win!

I often enjoy the simplicity of minimalistic recipes with only a few well chosen ingredients.
This is not one of those recipes.

While it can be said that less is more, I am an unapologetic fan of the idea that sometimes--just sometimes--more is more. And today, I want more. These ingredients all mingle together in one big, tasty, well attended par-tay. When I pulled these hodgepodge goodies from the oven, my mouth instantly watered. The garlic jumps out at me first, which is odd since I used very little of it. But then come the spicy shallots and scallions. Then the more rich undertones of the cream cheese and the subtle sweetness of the cornbread. My son and I gobbled them fresh from the oven. They didn't disappoint.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Double Ganache Tart

Alright, fabulous friends. I promise--this will be my last rich, decadent pastry for a while. But since my chocolatey streak is going to be on temporary hiatus for a bit, I figured we might as well go out with a bang, eh? And what says Shazam! better than ganache? TWO ganaches! Pile them in a flaky pastry shell, and I dare you to be in the same room and not lunge over the counter for a bite.

This tart is actually deceptively easy to make and has very few ingredients, especially if you buy crust mix or pre-rolled pastry. I just bought dry pastry mix, added water, and rolled it into a ball for this purpose. I'm kinda lazy like that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Swirly Cinnamon Date Bread

I am mad at this bread. It has some nerve coming in here, smelling so spicy sweet and gesturing me over with its "come-hither" buttery swirls. How dare it? I'M the boss in this kitchen, Bread, and I will tell YOU the ways of the world. You're not better than anyone else.

Okay, well, maybe you are. Just a little. Or a lot.

Sigh. I can't resist your golden crust and brown sugary goodness. You're just so sweet, come cuddle with me. We're friends forever.

Every Friday, I make sweet egg bread called challah. Unfortunately, my recipe yields a super huge batch, so I have to halve it. I'm not feeding an army, here. Or a high schooler. However, this Friday, I was in a hurry and forgot to halve the recipe. So I went ahead and halved the finished dough. I baked my usual bread with one half, and froze the other to make this week.

Except for one little snag. I'm currently watching my carb intake and since my quads are still sore from the gym, motivation is still holding fast. The idea of baking up two gorgeous golden loaves of bread that I wouldn't be able to eat just seemed masochistic. So instead, I figured I'd make a gift of the bread. But if I'm going to gift food to people, it's gotta be fabulous. Plain challah, as delicious as it is, wasn't good enough. We gotta make this special.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Puff Pastry Brownie Mess

First of all... this recipe was a total experiment. I don't claim to be a chef. I'm just a chick who likes sugar and hopes her kitchen won't explode one day. That is all.

That food forum I mentioned, the one that does the weekly ingredient challenges? Yeah, it totally stumped me this week. Puff pastry. Now, there's a million things one can google and find as far as puff pastry recipes go... brie en croute, turnovers (both sweet and savory), quiche crusts, napoleons, a thousand different pinwheel rounds... but I wanted something more original. Something with a little more ohmigosh.

I happened to have a bowl of leftover brownie batter in my fridge from a recipe I made Friday night, and I had a total fat-kid moment and thought, "Puff pastry AND brownies? Combined! Gasp!" Now I know how Mr. Reese's felt at the dawning of his epiphany. You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!

Unfortunately, the idea looked a whole lot better in my head than it actually performed in execution. It was fairly ugly, actually. A bit of a mess. Turned out a little like the new Bieber album. You don't want to admit you'd like such a thing, but secretly, it's awesome.

There's no real recipe for this--basically just some frozen puff pastry and a cup or two of brownie batter. Bake at 400. That's about it. But we all love food porn, so here's some eye candy to get your Monday started off with some gooey, drippy chocolatey love.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carrot Latkes with Edamame

What a way to welcome in spring, eh? I say this in hesitant optimism. It's 75 degrees today, and I'm hoping that if I talk about spring often enough, it'll finally just haul its flowery butt in here and take a seat for a while.

I bought a bag of carrots yesterday while at the grocery store. I don't know exactly why--I don't really eat carrots all that often. It just seemed like an adult thing to do. Grown ups buy bags of carrots, yeah? I got them home and just looked at them on the counter. I've been told I look a bit glazed when thinking about food and recipes. Usually, I'll feel that little twinge of inspiration, and my brain clamors to hang onto it, which sometimes requires a whole lot of mental aerobics. So I'll tune everything out and stare at whatever it was that inspired me, while flipping through my mental Rolodex of flavors and textures in an effort to find that "aha!" moment.

So I'm staring at my carrots, probably looking a bit like a lobotomy victim, and finally something clicked.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Strawberry Ganache Pie

First of all, I wanna say hello to my new readers and email subscribers. Hi there! I see you! Thanks so much for following along on my little kitchen adventures. If it weren't for you, I'd just be some chick sitting here talking to myself. Pull up a chair.

Yesterday was Pi Day! 3/14! In honor of the inherent geekiness of the day, there will be a chemistry lesson in today's post, friends. No explosions, though. Sorry. I managed not to set anything on fire today, too. Hooray!

In my last post, I commented on how I hate to keep fresh perishables in the fridge because I forget about them. This recipe came from exactly one such example. I took down a bag of whole strawberries from my freezer to thaw to make jam, and I ended up shoving them to the back of the fridge and they disappeared from view and from mind.

A week later, when cleaning out the leftovers and mess, I found the bag of berries, now thoroughly thawed and sitting in a deep puddle of rich, ruby juice. Oh my. The urge to make jam had passed, so I found myself wondering what I could concoct that would put these babies to good use. I was then reminded of what day it was, and my own question was answered immediately. How can you make anything but pie on Pi Day?! And what goes better with strawberries than chocolate?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Polenta Stuffed Tomatoes

You know what makes me sad? When you think Old Man Winter has finally disappeared, but you come to find he only backed up for a running start.

I'm never one to complain about "yucky" weather. I usually love yucky weather. It gives me an excuse to stay inside and end up wrist-deep in batter of some sort! But I have to admit, I was really looking forward to putting in my garden and swingin' in my hammock with a glass of lemonade.

So when I woke this morning to gray skies, snow, and slush, I decided a warm, hearty breakfast was just what the doctor ordered. Only, in my efforts to keep my pants from exploding, I wanted something a bit healthier than pancakes or french toast.

I had an idea I wanted to try. I love stuffed tomatoes, filled with the traditional meat-and-grain combo, like a stuffed pepper. So I thought--why not make it for breakfast? I could use polenta for the grain, and eggs for the "meat". Well now, that's just a fabulous idea! And hey! Less than 200 calories each! Can't beat THAT.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Caprese Kebabs

With spring fast approaching, you may be entertaining daydreams of family picnics, flowers abloom, and sunny skies. Along with spring comes fresh flavors and lighter dishes. Winter has passed, friends--it's time to put down the cakes and stews, and break out something juicy and organic.

Caprese salad is one of most simple, elegant salads on a traditional menu. Fresh, bright basil paired with creamy mozzarella, all brought together with plump, ripe tomatoes. How can you beat that??

Well, for starters, you can make it mobile. Everyone loves food to go, and kebabs are a festive way to wrap up your salad to be eaten on the move. Whether socializing, flitting from person to person at a party, or piled onto an hors d'oerves platter and served, these little beauties are sure to please, and bring a classic spring salad to a whole new level.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pina Colada Cookies

Imagine what would happen if traditional white chocolate macadamia cookies decided to pack their bags and go lay on the beach for a while. They'd get out their little beach towels and lay in the sun, right? And, like any other tourists, they'd suck down some pina coladas, yes? Well, imagine if they got a little tipsy and spilled those pina coladas all over themselves. Oh no! Now we've got white chocolate macadamia cookies, covered in pineapple and coconut, getting all toasty in the sun! No! What a tragedy.

Oh wait. I didn't mean tragedy, I meant delicious. Suddenly, fellow beachgoers stop and stare, licking their chops, and the cookies glance at each other and begin to feel afraid.

So let's spare those poor vacationing cookies, shall we, and just make some of our own. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, all filled to the brim with gooey white chocolate, tangy pineapple, and crunchy little bits of macadamia. I'm suddenly feeling festively tropical.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fried Buffalo Eggs

This has been an interesting week. Obviously, I love to cook and bake, and blogging only deepens that love because it forces me to pay more attention to what I'm doing. However, I think I may be a little too invested. How can I tell? Well, you know it's not a good sign when the act of blogging starts to inhibit rational behavior.

I set my kitchen on fire this week. I was baking cookies on a brand new (and still slippery) baking sheet, and when I pulled them from the oven, the parchment paper slipped off and everything fell onto the hot oven coils. The treated paper immediately burst into bright flames. Using an oven mitt, I fished around with a steel spatula, trying to scoop out the burning debris. I got a good piece, but then dropped it while trying to get it to my kitchen sink which was, mercifully, filled with dishwater. Before I could blink, I had fire in my oven, fire on my floor, burning cinders in my sink, and the only thought in my head was, "Oh damn, my camera's all the way across the room!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

German Chocolate Cake Pops

Well hellooooo there. This is, by far, the most-Googled recipe on my entire blog. And you know what? For good reason. These things are ridiculously, amazingly, obnxiously delicious. I'm pretty sure they might be the debbil.

It was my hubby's 38th birthday party this past Sunday, and I asked if there was something specific he wanted me to make for the occasion. He chose one of his favorite desserts--german chocolate cake.

While definitely a delicious cake, I wondered if there was a better way to make it accessible to a large crowd. After all, who wants to spend the whole party standing by a cake, slicing pieces for everyone? Not me. I gotsta get my party on!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stupid Mango Cupcakes

I am writing this post in a cloud of resentment. Bitter, pouty, pure resentment.

I have had this idea in my head for weeks-- strawberry cupcakes with mango glaze and a berry-mango buttercream frosting. It sounded so amazing. So I went and bought all my supplies and got to work.

The cupcakes ended up tasting absolutely perfect. Fluffy, spongy, soft... The buttercream, a silky cloud of creamy mango delight. Wonderful. So why am I so damn resentful?

Sweet Validation.

One of my hobbies is browsing recipe sites, finding recipes that look yummy, and then reading the reviews. It's my favorite way of learning--reading about other peoples' successes and failures, twists and add-ins. I get inspired really easily by hearing about what other people make. But then my recipe-perusing was interrupted by a rather unexpected surprise...

Have you ever asked someone for a recipe for something delicious, and then when you follow it perfectly, your end product tastes nothing like theirs? You figure you must have done something wrong, but you know what? I think some chefs and bakers intentionally screw up their own recipes, so you can't successfully duplicate their dish. It's sneaky and it's selfish, but unfortunately, it's also a trick of the trade.

I just want to let you know that I'll never do that. What's the point of taking the time to write out a recipe that's not accurate and intended to fail?? Why not just say, "This is what I made. It was fabulous. No, you can't have the recipe"...? You would think you'd WANT people to try your recipes and rave about them, yeah? I don't get it.

Anyway, referring to the surprise mentioned earlier, remember the Red Velvet Fiasco? Well, I had used a recipe from Magnolia Bakery for those cupcakes. It turned into freakin' cement.

So I was browsing vanilla cake recipes today and saw one listed for Magnolia Bakery. Well you can bet your bottom buck I passed it right by. I can't afford to keep breaking kitchen appliances.

Moving on to another recipe, I started reading the comments, which were generally positive, and this just serendipitously jumped out at me:

"The only thing I did differently was use margarine instead of butter. I tried that
horrible Magnolia Cupcake recipe from another site (it's a fake recipe, definitely not
the one used in the bakery) so anything after that would've been good."

HA!! So I'm not the only one!! I feel vindicated now.