Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Week of Muffins: Cherry Craisin-Wheat Germ Muffins

I'm closing out this week of muffins with what turned out to be my favorite of the bunch: Cherry Craisin-Wheat Germ Muffins. It's surprising, really. I definitely did not expect the muffin that sounded the healthiest, and let's fact it, the blah-est of the five, to be the one I favored. That's exactly what ended up happening, though! I absolutely loved these muffins; the best was saved for last.

These are extremely simple; none of the ingredients are wild or bizarre. The dried cherries were the only component I altered in the slightest; I opted to use cherry-flavored dried cranberries instead, because I just really like dried cranberries. There's a good amount of wheat germ in the batter, but you really don't taste it at all. It makes the muffins bulkier, and more filling, but it doesn't make them taste like health muffins or anything. There's also a small amount of allspice in there, which I believe gives the muffins a little special something else.

Thanks for bearing with me during my vacation week; next week I'm actually going to be gone, too. But at least this way I was able to still put some new material up on the blog for part of the time. Be sure to check back with me the first weekend in June, though! I'll be back with a bunch of stuff I had made prior to vacation, just waiting to be shared with you!

Cherry Craisin Wheat-Germ Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

makes 12 muffins

6.75 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cherry-flavored Craisins
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 7 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

2. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg in a separate small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups, and coat liners with cooking spray (I simply sprayed my muffin tins, with no muffin-cup liners, and it worked fine). Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

4. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Week of Muffins: Pistachio-Chai Muffins

Marching on with our week filled with diverse, delicious muffins, we'll discuss Pistachio-Chai muffins today! These muffins are the only ones out of this whole week's worth that contain nuts. We love pistachios, and I don't think I've ever made a muffin with pistachios in them until now. I have to say, they really work great. They're slightly salty, even though I bought the raw, pre-shelled kind, and it was a nice contrast to the sweet muffin.

Unlike Martha Stewart's Chai Cupcakes, which I made not too long ago, these enlist the use of the contents of a couple of chai tea bags. With Martha's cupcakes, you infused the milk that went into the cake batter with black tea, then added into the dry ingredients the usual spices you would find in a chai tea. So, the end results are actually pretty different. With these muffins, you can see little flecks of the tea leaves running through the batter, and in the finished product. Plus, these are even more dense than the cupcakes were, and those cupcakes were on the denser side.

That's not to say these muffins are bad, though; on the contrary, they're great if you're looking for something that tastes vastly different from your run-of-the-mill muffin. The tea makes it taste exotic; the nuts give it a nice texture. One note: there's a simple powdered sugar glaze in the recipe for these; you'll notice in my pictures that I left that off my muffins. I was trying to cut down on the sugar, but feel free to try the glaze for yourself.

Pistachio-Chai Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 12 muffins

7.9 oz. (about 1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 chai blend tea bags, opened
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Nonstick cooking spray
1/3 cup shelled, dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. water

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut open tea bags; add tea to flour mixture, stirring well.

2. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, Smart Balance, vanilla, and egg in a separate bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in a muffin tin and spray each with nonstick cooking spray (I simply sprayed my muffin tin with spray, which worked fine). Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle nuts evenly over batter. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning the muffins out onto a cooling rack.

4. Combine the remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla, powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp. water, stirring until smooth. Drizzle evenly over the muffins.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Week of Muffins: Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins

The third muffin this week is a bit of a departure from the others, because it is a savory one rather than a sweet one. I was pretty excited about these Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins, since they really are so different from any muffin I would normally make. They're similar to cornbread, with that same grainy texture that comes from baking with cornmeal. The bacon is chopped finely so you can ensure many small bits are well incorporated throughout. There's a decent amount of shredded cheddar cheese in there, which of course is delicious with the bacon. Then, for an extra little something, you throw in a finely diced jalapeno pepper for heat.

Despite my excitement about making these, I was disappointed to discover that my husband was not the biggest fan of these. I thought a savory muffin would be right up his alley, but he told me that when he eats a muffin, he expects it to taste sweet. So in other words, biting into these was a bit of a letdown for him. As for me, I really loved them! They're best warm from the oven, and I know they'd be great with a little pat of butter to spread on them, though I ate them plain. They're not overwhelmingly spicy if that scares you (and obviously you could just leave out the jalapeno altogether), just slightly kick-y. These would be equally great with some kalamata olives tossed in to replace the hot pepper. And if the idea of a savory muffin is daunting to you, as it was to my husband, I say you should still bake these, but serve them with a nice soup or chili at dinnertime!

Bacon-Cheddar Corn Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 12 muffins

4.5 oz. (about 1 cup) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup (2 oz.) reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 7 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in bacon and jalapeno; make a well in the center of the mixture.

2. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat with cooking spray (I simply sprayed my muffin cups, with no liners, and baked them right in the muffin tin, no problems). Divide batter among muffin cups.

4. Bake for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in tins for 5 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Week of Muffins: Tuscan Lemon Muffins

The muffins I'm going to tell you about today are my son's muffins of choice. These Tuscan Lemon Muffins are definitely a top contender for best of this week's muffins. They're delicately sweet, fluffy from the addition of ricotta cheese, and just tart enough to be refreshingly lemony.

Just like with the Chocolate-Pomegranate Muffins from yesterday, I had to make a couple small changes. First, I reduced the amount of granulated sugar in the batter (which turned out to be a wise decision for us; my son doesn't like things terribly sweet and these were just perfect), and then I also reduced the amount of olive oil by just a tablespoon. I find that if I shave off the amount of fat in a recipe just slightly, the results are still strong and I've saved us a couple calories at the same time. I wouldn't go omitting the oil altogether here, because I think the muffins do need some. Though these muffins are delicious, in the future I would definitely increase the amount of lemon zest in the batter. They're great, but I do wish the lemon flavor had provided more of a punch than it did. It's a small complaint, though! Otherwise I would make them again exactly as I did this time; they're already long gone!

Tuscan Lemon Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 12 muffins

7.9 oz. all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (the original recipe called for 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp. olive oil (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup)
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbsp. turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in the center.

2. Combine the ricotta and the next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups and coat with cooking spray (I simply sprayed my muffin tins with cooking spray, with no liners, and it worked fine). Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over the batter. Bake at 375 for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pans before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Week of Muffins: Chocolate-Pomegranate Muffins

This week, my blog's going to be a little bit different. My family and I are traveling to Orlando, Florida to visit Universal Studios, and then Disney World, and we'll be gone 9 days. Initially, I was considering just skipping the idea of doing blog posts at all for the duration of my vacation. After all, what's the point of being on vacation if you're still cranking out 3 or 4 blog posts while you're away? But then I had this brainstorm, and it worked out really well.

In the May 2011 issue of Cooking Light, I found a section on muffins. I love muffins, and I make them quite frequently. Imagine my delight when I was given 5 new muffin recipes in the latest issue of my mag! I couldn't decide which ones I wanted to try; they all sounded so good, and so different from one another. Finally, I took this as a sign that the stars were to align with both these muffins and with my vacation. I decided to bake all 5 of the muffins, and then I could make my vacation week Muffin Week! I just wrote all the blog posts ahead of time, and now I'll be able to publish each one gradually as the week unfolds. And you, as the reader, gets the 5 new muffin recipes, too!

First up: these Chocolate-Pomegranate Muffins. I decided to alter the Cooking Light recipe in a few different ways. It's a fantastic base recipe to play with; feel free to be creative in your version, too. The original recipe called for warm water for most of the liquid in the batter, and then a big handful of mini chocolate chips. Half the chips went into the batter, and the rest were sprinkled on top.

For my variation, I substituted coffee for the half of the water in the batter. I wanted a nice, kicky punch to my muffins. Honestly, I think I could have subbed coffee for all the water, since I did not actually taste coffee in the finished product. I do like to think that it gave the muffins a more intense chocolate flavor, though. As for the mini chips, they still adorned the tops of my muffins. But for inside the batter, I decided to throw in some chocolate covered pomegranate seeds I recently found at Trader Joe's. I loved them in there; they added a bit of fruit, as well as a nice little tangy bite every so often. I'd highly recommend trying to get your hands on some of these, but if you can't find them any dried fruit would be nice in there. Chocolate and fruit for breakfast? What's not to love?

Chocolate-Pomegranate Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 12 muffins

7.9 oz. all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup warm brewed coffee
1/2 cup warm water (you can use 1 cup coffee and omit the water, too)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chocolate covered pomegranate seeds (or just use dried pomegranate seeds)
1/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine the coffee, water, and the next 4 ingredients (through egg) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in the chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. Add the oil mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups, and coat liners with cooking spray (I coated my muffin tins with cooking spray, omitted the papers, and I was fine). Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup mini chips evenly over the batter.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before turning them out onto the rack to cool completely.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cowboy Cookies

For this week's Baked Sunday Mornings, we got to make something we don't usually make for this group: cookies. Cowboy Cookies, to be exact. And I have to tell you, I was really excited for these cookies! Yet another play on sweet/salty flavor pairings, these are unique and delicious.

At first glance, these may just appear to be your standard, everyday chocolate chip cookies. No, sir, that would not be entirely accurate! In fact, these are chocolate chips cookies, but enhanced. They are enhanced with a heavy dose of oats and my personal new favorite cookie ingredient, salty pretzel sticks. This has to be one of the greatest ideas ever! I'm telling you, the first time you bite down on a bit of pretzel, it's a surprise. But it's an incredibly pleasant one. The crunch, the salt, the flavor; it all just works so well! If you are a fan of chocolate covered pretzels, consider this your cookie.

I love the addtion of the oats, too, although I would not have thought to put them in there if the Baked boys hadn't told me to. It's definitely not your grandma's oatmeal raisin cookie, that's for sure! In fact, I'm glad there are no raisins or nuts in these cookies, because neither are needed at all. This cookie is different, but familiar. It's indulgent, but hearty enough to seem at least a little bit good for you. I don't think I need to do any more convincing here; you just need to make them!

I'm eager to see if everybody else in the group were as blown away by these cookies as I was. I hope so! You can see all the yummy results over at the blogroll, here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CEIMB: Lemon-Ginger Iced Tea with Berry Cubes

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was supposed to be the Peach Pie Smoothies. However, once again, I found myself not really wanting to make this one since it contains my nemesis, yogurt. I feel bad that I haven't been participating with the correct recipes for two weeks now, especially because next week and the week after I will be on vacation, and therefore unable to participate!

So, I decided to go ahead and make next week's recipe a bit early and post about it today. Next week's recipe is the Lemon-Ginger Iced Tea with Berry Cubes, chosen by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet. This one was such a great, refreshing beverage to make for springtime! And we enjoy both iced tea and lemonade around these parts, so I figured this one would go over pretty well.

As usual with Ellie's recipes, this one is easy to make. You allow a saucepan of water, honey, and chopped ginger to boil, and them simmer briefly. Once that is finished, you add in 6 tea bags and steep it for a while. Strain out the solids, and then add a bunch more water, along with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice. Then you chill it out in the fridge for a few hours. To accompany the iced tea, Ellie instructs you to plop some fresh raspberries in an ice cube tray, fill the tray with water, and freeze it until you have these adorable little berry cubes. Since my kids and my husband just did some strawberry picking over the weekend, I decided to slice those and use them in my cubes.

The tea turned out delicious! Not too sweet, just the right amount of lemon, and the berry cubes were definitely the highlight. I didn't have time to run out and get fresh mint and extra lemon for garnish, but I feel like the cubes do the job of a garnish nicely, so we didn't really miss the other stuff too much. Thanks to Mary for the pick, and my apologies to Chaya of Comfy Cook's Kosher Kitchen for skipping out on the Peach Pie Smoothie! Do head over to her blog to see how it turned out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butterscotch Krimpets (With Peanut Butter Variation)

I may live in the Midwest currently, but at heart I am still an East Coast girl. I was born and bred in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and most of my family still lives there today. One of the fondest food memories I have from when I was growing up is eating the region's Tastykake products.

Tastykakes is a line of baked goods that is found primarily in Pennsylvania; in fact, I'm not even sure if you can purchase them in stores in any other state (though you can order them online). There are several products that are available, among them kreme-filled cupcakes, donuts, and little pies, but my favorites were always the Butterscotch Krimpets and the Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. Nearly every day in my lunch box, my mom would pack for me either one of these delicious treats. I loved them both equally; to choose which one I preferred would be similar to choosing which of my two sons I favor. In other words, it's impossible! They are each scrumptious in their own right, although they taste different from one another.

The Butterscotch Krimpet is a light, airy sponge cake, covered with a sweet butterscotch frosting and sliced into long, zigzag-y strips and packaged in twos. They're so good; I can still recall unwrapping them, flipping then over and eating them cake-side first, then the frosting. Weird, but yummy!

Then there was the Peanut Butter Kandy Kake. The cake part is similar to that of the krimpet; both are light, springy vanilla cakes. But the kandy kake is a round little cake, smeared with peanut butter and then dipped in chocolate, so that the entire cake is surrounded by it. Again, yummy! I would eat these by nibbling off all the chocolate first, until all that was left was the peanut butter-covered cake. And I had to eat them slowly; that way I could truly savor every bite.

Now that you know what a devotee I was as a child to these Tastykakes, you can understand how excited I was to know that I could recreate these treats in the comfort of my own home! That's right; there's copycat recipes out there, and I've made them! I made the Butterscotch Krimpets a few weeks back, fully expecting that I would be the only member of my household to be consuming them. I was pleasantly surprised when my oldest son and my husband both fell head over heels for the krimpets and devoured every last one (after I had snagged a few, of course)! I was thrilled to be sharing my krimpet love with them!

A few days after the krimpets were all gone, my son asked me when we could make more. He said he missed having them around. So, I decided to make them again, but this time I thought I would cut the cake part in half after baking, and frost only half in the butterscotch frosting. The other half, I decided, was going to taste like the Kandy Kakes.

My mom actually has a killer recipe for the Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes in which you bake the sponge cake, then slather it with peanut butter while the cake is still warm. Once that has cooled, you melt a bunch of chocolate and spread that all over the top. So decadent, so good. However, I just decided to find a different frosting recipe that combined the peanut butter and the chocolate into one convenient little package. It still hits the same nummy flavor notes, but it took about half the time to put together.

So, feel free to try one, or both, of the recipes below. Either way, I promise that you can't go wrong! It definitely beats paying for a box of these to be delivered to your house; they're every bit as wonderful as the originals. Just note: the measurements below for the frosting indicate the amount needed to frost the whole cake. So if you were to divide the cake in half and frost each half in a different frosting, you would need to cut both frosting recipes in half.

Butterscotch Krimpets
adapted from Baking Bites
makes 20-24 pieces

For the sponge cake:
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk (2% is fine)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

For the butterscotch frosting:
6 Tbsp. butterscotch chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. salt

For the chocolate peanut butter frosting (from
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened (or cream cheese)
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-4 Tbsp. milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (Dutch process)

Make the sponge cake: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 15x10 jelly roll pan (17x11 works too) and line the bottom with parchment or nonstick aluminum foil. In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer), beat together eggs and sugars until pale and thick, 3-5 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

2. While the eggs are beating, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan on the stove over low heat. Once the butter is just melted and the milk is steaming, but not boiling, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Gradually sift flour, baking powder, and salt into the egg mixture; mix at low speed until just combined. With the mixer running, still at low speed, drizzle in the milk and butter mixture and mix until batter is uniform.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and when the top is golden and springs back when touched lightly. Allow cake to cool for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Make the butterscotch frosting: 1. In a heatproof bowl, combine the butterscotch chips and butter; melt in the microwave and set aside for a few minutes to cool to room temperature. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.

2. Add the confectioners' sugar, milk, and salt to the bowl; beat until everything is well combined, and free of lumps. Spread in a thin layer across the cake. Cut into squares; cake can be stored for a few days at room temperature in an airtight container.

Make the chocolate peanut butter frosting: 1. Beat together the peanut butter, mascarpone (or cream cheese), and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Blend in the vanilla and 3 Tbsp. of the milk until mixed well.

2. Gradually add in the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder, beating just until incorporated. Add in the extra Tbsp. of milk if the frosting appears too thick or not spreadable enough. Spread in a thin layer across the cake. Cut into squares; cake can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Easy Onion Tart

I normally try my best to make things from scratch, but there are times when convenience becomes a necessity. I don't like having to use pre-made doughs and things like that, but even I have to admit that they can be so easy to pull out and take advantage of. This tart was the result of a semi-homemade dough mixed with ingredients that were very easy to prepare, resulting in a yummy, pizza/calzone-like dinner!

The pizza dough (I used thin crust) is wrapped around a filling comprised of caramelized onions, mushroom Duxelles (which I had previously made and frozen, and for this I thawed out only what I needed), and two kinds of cheeses. You form a cool diamond-shape with your tart as you fold the corners over onto the filling, then bake for around 20 minutes or so. It's so easy; there's really not much else I can say about it. And of course, this one would be easy to add variations to. I'm sure spinach would be fantastic in there; if you wanted to make this non-meatless, sausage or chicken, or even bacon, would work very well. It's not something I would make every day, but it definitely works for a crazy day when you just don't have time to be making dough from scratch. Give it a try!

Easy Onion Tart
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 servings

1/2 Tsp. olive oil
3 to 4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup Duxelles (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 store-bought thin crust pizza dough
1/4 cup (1 oz.) reduced-fat feta cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz.) reduced-fat Swiss cheese

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add the olive oil and swirl the pan to coat. Add the onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the onions have started to become tender, lower the heat the medium-low and cover with the lid. Continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and have reduced. Stir in the Duxelles; cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is warmed through.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread out the pizza dough evenly. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup feta cheese across the center of the dough, leaving at least a 2-inch border. Add the onion mixture on top of the feta, allowing it to reach to just 1 inch from the edges. Top with the Swiss cheese.

3. Bake the tart for about 20-25 minutes. You want the dough to be cooked all the way through and brown around the edges, and for the cheese to be melted and bubbly. Cut into 4 wedges and serve.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

MSC: Tiramisu Cupcakes

This month's selection for the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club was the Tiramisu Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting. These were chosen by Jennifer of The Rookie Baker, whom I am in both this group and the Craving Ellie group with. I was intrigued by these cupcakes, because while I am not too familiar with tiramisu in general, I did wonder how it would translate into cupcake form.

My understanding of tiramisu is that it is a dessert composed of ladyfinger cookies that have been soaked in wine and/or coffee. The dessert is topped with a whipped cream (I think; see, my knowledge of actual tiramisu is limited!) frosting and then dusted with cocoa powder. Since I am not usually a fan of desserts that taste like booze, I wasn't sure if I'd like these, though I was certainly open to trying it!

The cupcakes themselves are not too difficult to make; they just require a bunch of different steps. You infuse milk with vanilla bean flavor by heating it up on the stovetop with a vanilla bean pod. Some butter is stirred into this at the end of the heating process. Meanwhile, you beat together some eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined, then heat that up on the stove, as well. You just want the sugar to dissolve, and for the mixture to become warm. Next, you beat the eggs/sugar on high speed until the mixture becomes very thick and the batter is almost ribbon-like when drizzled from a spoon.

You blend in cake flour, baking powder, and salt next to form a cake batter. Once everything is combined, you divide it into cupcake tins and bake. Once the cupcakes have baked and cooled completely, you brush each with a simple mixture of brewed coffee or espresso, marsala wine, and a bit of sugar. I was concerned that these would become too soggy, so I stuck the baked cupcakes inside a second cupcake liner each to minimize the possibility of them leaking all over. As it turned out, it wasn't really a problem, but at least I was prepared!

You allow this mixture to soak in for a while, and then your cupcakes are ready to be frosted. I was eager to taste this frosting, because last week I made a different mascarpone frosting for the Tomato Soup Cupcakes that I didn't care for too much. This one's made with whipped heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, and some confectioners' sugar. Just those three ingredients. And I have to say, this one really worked for me! True, I did not really taste the mascarpone when all was said and done, but it did add some body to the otherwise light and airy frosting. It was smooth and divine. A sprinkling of cocoa powder over the top of this, and these are ready.

I'm still glad I tried these, but I have to admit that they are not my absolute favorite. There's just something about the soggy, soaked cupcake tops that jut does not appeal to me. However, my husband took these in to his office and they received rave reviews, so clearly I am in the minority here. That said, they were a lot of fun to make and were very impressive.

Thank you, Jennifer, for giving me the opportunity to branch out and try something new. I wonder how everybody else liked these? Click on over to the MSC blogroll to see all the other results, here!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

CEIMB Rewind: Breakfast Cookies

There won't be any post about Ellie's Muesli Parfaits today, unfortunately. Those parfaits were the assigned recipe for today, chosen by Sarah of Sarah's Kitchen Adventures for Craving Ellie in My Belly. However, I opted to do an Ellie rewind instead.

Why? Well, the main reason is because I really, really dislike yogurt, and that is one of the main ingredients in the Muesli Parfaits. And while I have been known to forge ahead and make recipe of Ellie's that I don't think I'll like, I had to take exception with this one. I wish I could like yogurt, but there just seems to be no getting around it. I could have made this recipe for my husband, but I had actually just made Ellie's Breakfast Cookies late last week, and it just felt like doing a rewind here would be a good way for me to blog about them.

These Breakfast Cookies were made all the way back in the first week of July of 2009, nearly two years ago! I was not yet part of the group, and may never have known about this cookies, since they are not found in either of Ellie's cookbooks. But I've seen them on Food Network's website and they are reviewed very well, so I wanted to give them a shot. Plus, I'm building up a small arsenal of portable baked goods that I can take on my upcoming trip to Disney World (whoo-hoo!), and these fit the bill nicely.

The ingredients list for these cookies is long, but the recipe itself is very simple to put together. The cookies are made from, among other things, whole wheat and all-purpose flour, rolled oats, bran cereal, raisins, and walnuts. I substituted pistachios for the walnuts, and Fiber One Bran Cereal for the bran flakes. Also, I had no carrot baby food, so I just used some unsweetened applesauce. The cookies turned out hearty, tender, and just sweet enough. I think maybe two of these could suffice for a nice breakfast; one may not be quite enough. Still, I am very excited to take these on my trip for quick morning fixes!

Thanks to Sarah for hosting this week, and I do apologize for not making these along with everybody. If you're curious about whether the other members of the group liked their parfaits, be sure to check out the blogroll, here!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shrimp, Swiss Chard, and Swiss Cheese Quesadillas

I was having so much fun last week, posting Cinco de Mayo recipes, that I wanted to make just one more thing that could possibly pass for Mexican. When all was said and done, I think this recipe turned out a bit too out-there to be an authentic Mexican dish, but I really enjoyed it all the same!

I had seen the basic idea for these quesadillas in Cooking Light Magazine, but I took the concept and ran far, far away with it. There was an article last month about putting dark, leafy greens into your quesadilla, usually with some type of protein, and using less cheese. It's an unexpected surprise in between your tortilla, but it's very nutritious and completely tasty. I'm always up for trying new ideas, so I forged on with this one and made it my own.

For my greens, I chose mustard greens. For my protein, I chose to work with shrimp. For my cheese, I was feeling like some Swiss, so that's what I went with. I started out by sauteeing some onions low and slow, then I added garlic, red bell pepper, and finally the mustard greens. Once the greens had wilted down considerably, I turned the heat off and went about assembling the quesadillas. They came together very quickly, and then they baked up in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. The resulting quesadilla was scrumptious! Sweet from the onions, bitter/flavorful from the mustard greens, and the shrimp was great in there. I can only imagine how great sausage would be instead, but this totally worked, too. Feel free to be way more generous with your cheese than I was; I'm a cheese conservationist!

Shrimp, Mustard Greens, and Swiss Cheese Quesadillas
recipe by Bri
makes 8 quesadillas

1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 cups mustard greens (1 bunch), stemmed and chopped
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
32 shrimp (the size I used was 26/30 per lb.), cooked, shelled, and tails removed
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
8 flour tortillas
Nonstick cooking spray

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Once the onions have started to soften, lower the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the lid from the onions, allow to cook for another 2 minutes, then add the red bell pepper and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes more, then add in about half the mustard greens. Toss and turn the greens, allowing them to wilt evenly. Sprinkle the Old Bay seasoning over the greens, then add the other half. Once all the greens have wilted down, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

3. Take your tortillas and begin to assemble the quesadillas. Lay a tortilla flat, then spread 1/8 of the greens mixture on it. On top of this, add your shrimp (I sliced my shrimp each in half lengthwise, making them extra thin, but this is optional), 4 per quesadilla. Next comes the Swiss cheese, 1 Tbsp. per quesadilla. Fold the tortilla in half, so it forms a half moon, then spray the top with cooking spray. Transfer the quesadilla to a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

4. Bake the quesadillas for 8-10 minutes, until the filling is very hot, the cheese is melted, and the tortillas have just begun to brown and crisp up on the edges. Cut into wedges and serve.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Tomato Soup Cupcakes

Yes, you read that title correctly. For this week's Baked Sunday Mornings assignment, we were to make the Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting. As bizarre as this cupake may sound, I actually have heard about these before reading the Baked book. I can't say that I ever thought I'd be baking them, though! Lucky for me, then, that this cupcake came up in the rotation for the group.

I've gotten used to setting aside huge chunks of time to make the Baked recipes, and I'm fine with that. However, if you're looking for a nice, easy recipe that is still just as elegant as the other offerings in this book, I definitely recommend that you give these a try. I was able to throw this whole thing together, including frosting the cupcakes, within my two year-old's naptime! I can't beat that!

So, what's up with the whole tomato soup thing, anyway? Where did this originate? Who ever thought to put a can of tomato soup in their cake batter, and then feed it to their loved ones? I really don't know, but they must have been on to something. This is one of those oldey-timey cake recipes that has been passed down for years, and I'm sure a lot of people hold this cake near and dear to their hearts. It is basically a spice cake, almost reminiscent of a carrot cake, without the carrot. The "secret" ingredient (not so secret if you know the title of the recipe, though!) dyes the batter a pale, pretty orange hue that still does not betray its identity. I mean, who would ever guess that the cake is orange because it contains some Campbell's?

As I said before, the cake itself came together in no time flat, and baked up beautifully. I loved the nice, domey tops on these! Next comes the frosting, which was a Mascarpone/Butter combo. I've made many a cream cheese frosting, but this was my inaugural batch of mascarpone frosting. While I've heard mascarpone described as a "fancy cream cheese," I actually think it's kind of its own thing. It's good, don't get me wrong. It just was not what I had expected. The frosting, to me, tasted very sweet, almost like a buttercream. Again, that's fine, but I supposed I was in for a tangy, tart/sweet topping to my cake and instead it tasted just sweet. Also, I think that maybe I just whipped this up wrong, because I accidentally threw the butter and mascarpone in the mixer at the same time. Only after this did I read in the book that the butter was supposed to be mixed first, all by its lonesome. Oops. My frosting, as a result of this (perhaps?) seemed a bit thin or something. It was not at all fluffy, but it spread just fine.

I'm glad I tried these, but I can't make any promises that I would bake them again. If I wanted a spice cake, I would probably just make a regular spice cake, sans soup. As for the frosting, if I absolutely had to make the cupcakes again, I would sub in just a cream cheese frosting for the mascarpone. Later this week, I'll be making Martha Stewart's Tiramisu Cupcakes, and they call for a mascarpone frosting as well! The preparation and ingredients differ from this one, so we'll see if I like that one better. Check out how the other members of Baked Sunday Mornings felt about this recipe by clicking on the link here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie

And now, I present to you my fifth and final Cinco de Mayo recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie! I just had to end on a high note, and this one definitely takes the cake (er, pie?). I found this amazingly flavorful pie in my latest copy of Cooking Light Magazine, and I thought of it when I was planning my Cinco de Mayo menu. I'm glad I did; otherwise this wonderful gem may have slipped through the cracks, and gone unmade. That would have been a real shame.

Now I know Cinco de Mayo was technically yesterday, but so what? You hardly need an excuse to make this pie. I mean, it's straight from a "light cooking" magazine, so anytime can be pie time! If you need any more convincing, I suppose I could try harder....

You start out with a graham cracker crust, enhanced with a big sprinkle of cinnamon and lightened by using part butter, part egg white for the binder. I made mine even more cinnamon-y by using half cinnamon-flavored graham crackers.

Next, you make a spicy chocolate pudding. Man, is this stuff good! It's got both unsweetened dark cocoa powder and real, melted dark chocolate, which makes it taste oh-so-rich. Espresso powder strengthens the chocolate flavor, while a dash of cayenne pepper makes the whole concoction a whole lot more intriguing. The pudding was a snap to make and I found that part of the recipe much more painless than I expected it to be.

Finally, after chilling the pudding layer for a few hours inside the pie crust, you slather on your final layer. Now, this is the one part of the recipe that I may try to improve upon in the future, because you use Cool Whip. Just Cool Whip. Nothing homemade, or complicated. But that kinda disappointed me, because I do try to make things completely from scratch a lot of the time, and my husband could tell right away that this came out of a tub. That's okay, though. The pie was still unbelievably delicious and decadent, especially for a Cooking Light pie. It's the stuff of healthy-living dreams, I promise!

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 1 (9-inch) pie

5 sheets honey graham crackers
5 sheets cinnamon graham crackers
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/4 tsp. salt, divided
2 eggs, divided (1 egg white for the crust, 1 whole egg and a yolk for the pudding)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Cooking spray
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne pepper)
1 3/4 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip Lite, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare the crust: crush the graham crackers in a food processor, until the crumbs resemble sand. Add 2 Tbsp. sugar, the cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle in the egg white and the 2 Tsp. butter until the crumbs are moistened. Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch pie plate that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Press the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

2. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, espresso, cayenne, remaining 1/8 tsp. salt, egg, and egg yolk in a medium-sized bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place the milk in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until milk reaches 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil).

3. Gradually add hot milk to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick and bubbly (mine only took about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add dark chocolate; stir until smooth.

4. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 10 minutes or until mixture cools, stirring occasionally. Spoon filling into crust, and cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill for 3 hours or until set; remove plastic wrap. Spread the Cool Whip evenly over the pudding layer; sprinkle with ground cinnamon to garnish.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

CEIMB: Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto Pasta

I am thrilled to be able to present you with this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe, because Ellie Krieger herself has chosen it for us! That's right. Somehow Ellie managed to find out about our little blogging group, and she kindly offered to share with us a new dish that she has come up with. Needless to say, we jumped on it and it was placed on the rotation for this week.

The dish, Whole Grain Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto (or whole grain rotini, which is what I used), is definitely one of Ellie's best, at least in our opinion! Not only is it packed with flavor and nutrition, but it's absolutely, uniquely delicious and so very easy to make! As you are boiling some water for pasta, you can easily assemble the pesto sauce. It starts out with some toasted almonds and a clove of garlic, which are chopped finely in a food processor.

Meanwhile, you slow-roast about 6 tomatoes in the oven (Ellie also presents the option of using a can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes), which makes the tomatoes' flavor concentrate and become tangy-sweet. Sooo, sooo good. After they have roasted, into the food processor they go, along with some fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and crushed red pepper flakes.

You blend in some olive oil, then add salt to taste. What I could not get over at this point was how creamy the sauce became. I suppose if I had not processed the ingredients too much, I could have had a chunkier pesto, but I happen to like it the way it turned out. It wasn't completely smooth; there were still little nut pieces and basil flecks, which gave the sauce a great texture. Finally, you throw in some Parmesan cheese and gently pulse to combine. That's it for the sauce.

I was about 97% faithful to the original recipe. I did use rotini instead of spaghetti, and I also reduced the olive oil by 1 Tbsp. (I used 2 instead of the recommended 3) and bumped up the red wine vinegar from 1 tsp. to 4 tsp. I do like things tart, and this made it slightly more so. Finally, I served the pasta on a bed of fresh spinach, just to plump up the bowls a bit. Overall, we absolutely loved, loved, loved this dish! Even my son, who routinely gives me trouble at dinnertime, inhaled this and declared it "really good!" That's a huge compliment from him!

So, Ellie, if you're reading this, thanks so much for this wonderful recipe! I can hardly wait to make it again (and again). And if you have any other new recipes lying around that you want us to try, please don't hesitate to share! I hope the other ladies in the group had as much fun making, and eating, this as I did! You can find this recipe on our main CEIMB site, here. That's also where you will find the blogroll, so do stop by if you get a chance!