Monday, November 12, 2012

Baby Shower Nibbles

I got the opportunity to play caterer for a friend who was hosting a baby shower recently. I did not take photos of the goodies because they were not all assembled until they got to the party site. However, the gracious mom-to-be, Bethany, snapped these gorgeous photos of the final product. I am so pleased! Also I had a lot of help, so big props to Brian, Kiley, and Karl for digging in and being so great.
Cake pops - Kiley's masterpiece. They're blue because it's a boy. :)

Baked potato bites.

Berry salad with Champagne vinigrette.

Cucubmber cups with chicken salad.
Thanks to the hostess with the mostest for letting me help!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rich Red Velvet

It's baking season, hooray! In anticipation of guests this weekend, I wanted to make a dessert that we could nibble on for a few days. Obviously, Red Velvet cake is always a winner. Plus, who doesn't love lots of food dye?
Verdict was mostly positive. I don't take "messy to cut" as too hard of a critique. :)

I used one of Sara Moulton's recipes, and added my own favorite cream cheese frosting.
Vegetable oil for the pans
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cream cheese frosting
crushed pecans, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.
Frost the cake. Place 1 layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top with the pecans.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Itty Bitty Apple Pies

I fell prey to a food fad today. I couldn't help it. I was wandering around with my husband in Crate & Barrel when his eyes lit up as he pointed to a display touting all things classified as "mini pie." So we bought one, rushed home, and made pie. Lots and lots of little pies, actually. It has been a long time since I have made a pie from scratch, but I think I'll be doing it more often now. They're. Too. Cute.
First in the "Itty Bitty Pie" series is apple. I anticipated figuring out bake time, etc would be easier with something that I already knew how to make. Plus we had some apples on hand and I was too lazy to go get anything else.
For the filling,I peeled and chopped the apples, and made sure I had my pan close by.
Please note that each of the "pie" sections in the pan has a removable bottom like a tart pan - essential for tiny pie removal.

Sautee apples with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and whiskey.

Cut rounds of pie dough for bottom crust. Note: my pan came with an appropriately sized round for sizing (a giant cookie cutter) but yours may not. Also, having done this once now, I think the size they suggest is too small, and you'll see later that my crusts separate - irritating. The 2nd batch I made was larger and much better.

After cooking the filling, I added it to the waiting dough. It is important not to overfill!

I placed on the top crust (which, as I mentioned earlier was too small to effectively seal the edges, but whatever) and 30 minutes later, these adorable little pies popped out. I used a shot glass to raise the little bottoms out of the molds, and cooled until we couldn't stand it any longer.

Next time, I will make sure the crust is thinner, and cut a little larger. However, the portability (and adorability!) of these little guys makes them worth the work.

Here are the recipes I used:

Dough: I found this recipe to be simple and easy. Made enough for 4 double crust pies and 4 single crust pies. (12 rounds total, and there was a little extra.)


3 apples, peeled and chopped into 3/8" bits. I used Granny Smith because they seem to be resilient.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp whiskey (We happened to have a bottle of Jack laying around.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water (egg wash)


1. Melt the butter in a pan on medium high heat. Add all ingredients and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring consistently.
2. Remove from heat until pie shells are ready. Makes enough for 4 mini pies (4").
3. Fill pie shells, apply and crimp on top shell, and paint with egg wash.
4. Bake at 375 for 30 min and let cool. Enjoy!

These are almost like eating cookies, except the crust is much more flaky.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roasted Root Veggies

After a pre-game feast of sausage balls and fruit tray, I wanted to feed our football game guests something on the wholesome side. We settled for crock pot pulled pork, roasted root veggies and brussel sprouts, and pumpkin pie. Turned out to be tasty and colorful, and a great jump into fall cooking.

Crock pot pulled pork is one of my favorites to feed a crew. You can find out how here.


Ingredients for roasted veggies:

2 Cups chopped carrots
2 Cups chopped parsnips
2 Cups chopped potatoes (I used purple, red, and mini yukon golds)
2 Cups brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut into halves
2-3Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste


1. Prepare all veggies - for the carrots, parsnips, and potatoes, I cut everything into 3/4" cubes. For the brussel sprouts, I cut them in half. (They will be cooked separately.)
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, add all carrots, parsnips, and potatoes. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and toss to coat. Add salt, pepper, and dill. Add to heavy roasting pan and cook, shaking/stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes.
3. To prepare brussel sprouts, put halved sprouts in a bowl and toss to coat with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, and toss. On a cookie sheet (or separate heavy roasting pan) put all brussel sprouts cut side down. Cook in the oven aside the other veggies for 26-28 minutes, turning over all sprouts halfway through the cooking time.
4. Serve and enjoy! Goes well with seasonal pumpkin ales.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Best Yeast Rolls

I wanted to play house tonight and use all of my wedding gifts to cook dinner for friends tonight, so I decided on a menu of black pepper crusted pork tenderloin, asparagus risotto, and roasted veggies. To step it up just a little, I decided that I wanted to try yeast rolls for the first time as well. They turned out to be delicious, and they all disappeared immediately. :)

How to make delicious yeast rolls:
1 cup milk (I used 2% because it's what I had)
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (large)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cup all purpose flour
1 pkg active dry yeast

1. Warm the milk to between 90 and 110 degrees F. Mix all of the ingredients together minus the optional water. (If you have a mixer with a bread hook you can use that or just mix by hand)
Once all the ingredients are added if the dough seems very dry add 1 tablespoon of water.
2. Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface.
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and place in a warm area. Allow the dough to rise until it is about double in size.
3. Butter a 9x13 glass dish, and then form dough into 24 dough balls. Place side by side in pan and let proof/rise for another 20-30 minutes.
4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 14 to 17 minutes or until the rolls are slightly golden brown.
*Adapted from


Friday, August 24, 2012

Potato Leek Soup with Chicken Meatballs

I've been in the mood this week for some soup, and since it has cooled down a little recently, I took the opportunity to try an experiment tonight. While I think this is lacking a little (could use some more greens, etc) it was very flavorful and filling. I added the chicken meatballs because they were quick and easy and I really wanted some protein.  

The meatballs only took a minute to combine and portion into 1 oz sizes.

After browning quickly, these sit until it is almost time to eat, and they add a lot to the soup.

1 lb ground chicken
2/3 C. bread crumbs
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, chopped thin
1/2 onion, chopped thin
3/4 C. white wine
6 C. chicken broth
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) for meatballs in a bowl, and combine until evenly distributed. Separate into 1 oz. portions.
2. In large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil to medium heat. Sautee meatballs in a single layer until browned. Remove and drain.
3. In same pot, add additional 2 Tbsp oil, leeks, and onion. Sautee until translucent. Add wine, and bring to a boil. Add broth, thyme, bay leaves, granulated garlic, red pepper, black pepper, and salt. Simmer covered for 30 minutes.
4. Remove bay leaves, and puree mixture with immersion blender until smooth. Add thinly sliced potatoes and meatballs. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vanilla Blueberry Poundcake

Tried making this as a gift for one of Brian's coworkers. Ended up making a 2nd loaf for us. Delicious! Highly recommend! 


1 cup butter
1-1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups blueberries
1 cup yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice             
icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar until mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 8 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
2. Stir or sift together flour, baking soda and salt; mix in berries. In separate bowl, stir together yogurt, orange juice and rind.
3. Mix 1/3 of the dry ingredients into batter; add half of the yogurt mixture. Stir in another third of the dry ingredients, then remaining yogurt mixture and dry ingredients. Pour into well-greased and floured deep 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt pan; smooth top and tap pan lightly on work surface to remove air bubbles.
4. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean and cake is well-risen. Let cool for 15 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Banana Oat Muffins

This morning's challenge: use overly ripe bananas to make something that does not break the calorie bank. Behold! Banana oatmeal muffins. Nothing too special, but 200 calories per muffin so not terrible. Easy to construct, and less than 20 minutes in the oven - delicious.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, nutmeg, cinnamon and combine thoroughly. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper bake cups and fill with batter.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.

You should probably let them cool completely before removing them from the wrapper.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Smoked Turkey Sausage with Thyme Cream Sauce

I have been on a fresh pasta "kick" lately, and I was itching to use what I brought home from the Farmer's Market so this is what the internet helped me come up with. Oh, and smoked sausage goes on everything, because it might be my favorite food. This is certainly not equivalent to eating celery, but as cream sauces go, it could be a whole lot worse.

I typically cook the sausage separately from anything else so it gets the crispy little brown bits on it. 

Fresh pasta is on a roll in my house, and I love that I can buy it at the market if I don't feel like destroying my kitchen to make my own.

Here it go:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced smoked turkey sausage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup milk - I used 2% because it's what I had around
  • 1/2 cup parmesean cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup starchy pasta water - reserved

  • Instructions:
    1. Using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, brown the smoked sausage on both sides on medium heat. Remove from pan.
    2. Add remaining olive oil, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until translucent. Add garlic, and cook for additional 3-4 minutes.
    3. At this point, I start the salted water boiling for the pasta. Add the tried herbs to the onion/garlic mixture, along with the white wine. After a minute or two, add the milk and bring to simmer. Once pasta has finished, add the pasta water. Reduce by about 1/3 and then remove from heat.
    4. Add cheese and ensure "sauce" is at desired thickness. Toss with drained pasta and top with browned sausage.

    Gourmet? No. Delicious and easy? Yes.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    The Best Cream Cheese Frosting

    Happy birthday to my sweet husband! Age agrees with you. Personally, I think it is due to all the cupcakes I force you to sample until I get the frosting recipes right.  

    The recipe is really easy, and kind of messy.

    Since it was such a special occasion, I even got out the piping materials. They looked pretty until we jammed mini Reese's peanut butter cups into them. :)

    Recipe: (literally takes 5 minutes or less)

    • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
    • 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
    • 2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

    1. In an electric mixer, mix cream cheese and butter until smooth. Tip: I put my metal mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes before starting this - helps to keep temperature controlled.
    2. Add powdered sugar little by little, taking care to periodically scrape the sides of the bowl down. Keep adding until sugar is at desired sweetness and consistency.
    3. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. This is also the time to add color, if desired.
    4. Apply with spatula or piping bag.


    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Leftover Quesadillas

    Last night around 9pm, we decided we needed a snack. I looked in the fridge, and found only the staple condiments, eggs, and a container with 2 spoonfulls of ground turkey taco filling, and some corn. (These conditions typically lead to some of my best food experiements.) I dug out some leftover flour tortillas, got the shredded cheddar, and made these these little snack size quesadillas, then smothered them in salsa and devoured them. Creative? No. Delicious? Yes!

    What's the best thing you've ever cobbled together from leftovers and/or pantry staples?

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    A Tale of Two Birthday Cakes

    It's March, which means almost everybody I know is having a birthday at the same time. Case in point: both my nieces turned a year older in the past 2 weeks and their party was yesterday. I took the opportunity to flex my cake skills. Not perfect, but they tasted delicious and everyone seemed to like them. The theme, if you can't tell, was Cinderelly herself. The little one got her very own cake to smash and cover herself with. See below for results.

    Since I had to drive them across town, I did the base layer of frosting at my house, then decorated them more fully upon arrival. I think I was most excited about getting to thread the ribbon through the cake platter that someone gave me for my wedding. Its the little things.

    As you can see, the inside of the cakes was pink; fit for any princess. Watching the baby poke at her cake was probably my favorite part. At least I don't have to make another cake until November, so I have some time to hone my skills a little more. I learned a valuable lesson this time about frosting with buttercream in a warm apartment. Won't be doing that again!

    Here was my recipe for the icing:


    2 sticks room temp butter
    3 C powdered sugar
    1 tsp Vanilla
    1 tsp milk or cream
    food coloring

    1. Combine butter and sugar with electric mixer on low speed until fully integrated. Raise speed to high and beat for 3 minutes.
    2. Add vanilla, and cream; beat until fully incorporated. Add food coloring and use!

    Tips: Frost the cakes with a "crumb" layer and then store in the freezer for 15-20 minutes between coats. Leave it in the freezer for 45-60 minutes before trying to drive said cake across town. :)

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Cabbage Tots

    After visiting local restaurant Bocado recently, I have a new found love of brussel sprouts. I filled up on sprouts and red wine alone - and I could have kept eating them. Anyway, I've been on a search ever since to find a recipe to make them at home. I think the secret is all in the roasting technique.

    1-1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut through the core into quarters
    3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    4 Tbs. unsalted butter
    1 Tbs. minced shallot
    1-1/2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice; more to taste
    1-1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
    1 tsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. In a medium bowl, toss the sprouts with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the sprouts out evenly on the two baking sheets.
    2. Roast until the sprouts are tender 20 to 22 minutes, stirring the sprouts once or twice during roasting. (Note that any loose leaves will be browning deeply; if they seem to be actually burning, turn down the heat a bit or just pick out the burned leaves.)
    3. While the sprouts cook, combine the butter and shallot in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the butter is melted and the shallots are soft, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and continue cooking, swirling the pan, until the milk solids in the butter turn golden brown and the butter smells very nutty (take care that none of the shallots burn), about 2 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, thyme, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to dress the sprouts.
    4. Slide the sprouts into a medium bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or lemon, and serve immediately.

    *Adapted from a recipe here.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Valentine's Breakfast

    I couldn't think of a more special way to thank my Valentine for being so great than to present him with a plate full of pork and cheese eggs! And yes, the toast is shaped like a heart - really went out of the box on that one. Nothing says, "I love you" like CHEESE EGGS!

    What special foods did you enjoy today?

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Orange Vanilla Pound Cake

    In an effort to contribute something valuable to last weekend's superbowl party, I wanted to make some sort of cake. This turned out pretty good - but it was a little smaller than I expected. I'll definitely tweak to add more orange flavor next time, but the tanginess of the yogurt was surprisingly (and deliciously) notable.

    1 c. butter, softened
    1 1/2 c. sugar
    3 eggs
    2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. grated orange rind
    1 tsp. vanilla
    8 oz. vanilla yogurt
    Powdered sugar icing (powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange juice)

    1. Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    2. Combine flour, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir lemon rind, vanilla and yogurt into batter.
    3. Pour batter into a greased 10-inch Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean). Cool in pan 15 minutes; remove and cool completely on rack. Sprinkle with icing as desired.