Monday, June 30, 2014

Buttermilk Breakfast Dumplings

This is a slightly different breakfast dish, something like I've never made before. I just sort of came up with it on the fly yesterday morning. It is quick and easy to do, and quite tasty. Flavors could definitely be played with in this dish, and these could be served for a sweet or savory breakfast. 
Buttermilk Breakfast Dumplings
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1-3 teaspoons wheat germ or ground flaxseed (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons buttermilk, soured milk, or milk

Heat a small greased frying pan over medium heat.
In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the wet ingredients. Dough should have no dry flour remaining, but should be thick and sticky. It should not be so runny as to be poured, so add milk accordingly.
Drop dough by spoonfuls into the prepared pan. A small ice cream scoop works great to get uniform sizes. Cook for a few minutes on each side until they are nicely browned and crisp.
Makes about seven dumplings.

These dumplings get their buttermilk flavor from both the milk and the yogurt. Regular milk may be used, or you could just ass a little squirt of vinegar or lemon juice if desired. These have a crisp exterior and a soft, fluffy interior. They can be served in a variety of ways, and are also great for dipping into yogurt, fruit sauce, nut butters, etc. They are a great accompaniment for many breakfast items.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pick A Piece Pizza

Do I feature pizza on here a lot? Maybe. But probably still not as often as I feature oatmeal. Pizza is another one of my favorite foods. It is a favorite of many, and why not? It is so versatile and can easily be tailored to please anyone. Anyway, this is a pizza from the other day. It is the pizza crust recipe we always use - the one I learned ages ago from cooking class in school and the one I have now passed on to my father. This crust recipe is so forgiving. You can make it a day ahead or five minutes ahead. It can be refrigerated or not, it can be allowed to rise or baked right away. Some techniques yield better results than others, but no matter what, it always yields a tasty, risen pizza crust. Another thing about this pizza dough recipe is that it can be made as a thin and crispy crust, a thick and doughy rising crust, or anything in between. This pictured here is a thin crust, but at the same time we also made a really thick and doughy crust, we just baked the pizzas separately. This crust can be made in either white, whole wheat, or a mixture of both, and can stand up to any toppings. Pictured here we've got ham, salami, pepperoni, sliced mushrooms, diced onions, and mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce. Yum! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Graduation Hat Cupcakes

Since it is still graduation season, I decided to share another graduation treat I actually made five years ago for my brother when he graduated. At the time I was really only just beginning to really get interested in the culinary world. Since then, my creativity, skills, and photography have vastly improved. 

I found this idea for graduation hat cupcakes online. It is a similar idea to the brownie graduation hats I made this year and last year. First I baked a batch of vanilla cupcakes, removed the paper liners, and turned them upside-down. Next, I coated graham crackers with melted chocolate and allowed them to harden. You really only see one side of the cracker, so it's not necessary to coat both sides, but you can if you'd like. Next I placed the graham cracker on top of the hat with a tassel fashioned from fruit leather strips (in this case I think it's artificial flavoring since the tassels are blue) and attached it with a blue candy coated chocolate. I cannot remember if I needed to use a little extra melted chocolate or some frosting to ensure the cracker and tassel remained attached to the cupcake or not, but it would not hurt. It would also add a little more sweetness, since cupcakes are meant for frosting, and without it these are a tad bit dry, especially after a few days. Don't refrigerate them unless it is really hot (do if the tassels begin to melt like these did) to prevent them from drying out further.

Again, these cupcakes can be color-coordinated to match school colors. If you are using a white cake batter, a little food coloring may even be added to color the cupcakes, though I don't really like the idea of dyed cupcakes. I think they look better in natural colors. You could however, use a chocolate cake batter, and that way the graham cracker would match. If you can purchase chocolate covered graham crackers already, use those as this saves time. Alternatively, you could coat the graham crackers with frosting or fondant, and that way they may again be any color you wish and can match school colors. And of course candy-coated chocolate pieces and fruit roll-up strips are easily found in a variety of different colors.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Strawberry Cinnamon Oatbran

Take some oat bran
Take some fresh, ripe and juicy local strawberries.
Take a little bit of cinnamon.
Add some water and cook it up for a delicious breakfast.

This is hardly a recipe but simply something I threw together one morning that turned out to be so pretty and tasty I just had to share it. I just diced up some strawberries and mixed them in with my oat bran and water, then cooked it as normally, adding a little cinnamon. Since the cooking time was quick, this gave the strawberries just enough time to become warm and plump and juicy in the cereal. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Graduation Cap Cake

It is graduation time again! Here is a cake I made to celebrate - a cake shaped like a graduation cap. It is actually much easier to make than it may appear, and didn't take very much time at all.

Step 1: Bake your favorite cake recipe in a deep round pan. You don't want the cake to be flat and round, but tall and round, so I don't recommend an 8 or 9-inch round pan. I baked this chocolate cake  recipe {Bigger Batch Chocolate Cake} in a 5-inch oven-safe bowl.
Step 2: Prepare an appropriately-sized square of cardboard (based on the size of the cake) and cover it with waxed paper on both sides.
Step 3: Prepare one batch of candy clay {Candy Clay}). Use an appropriate color of candy melts or tint desired color. I used royal blue coloring to match the school color. Spread the candy clay evenly over the piece of cardboard to cover, cover with waxed paper, and allow to dry overnight. Save a little extra candy clay to make a tassel (once it hardens).
Step 4: Prepare your favorite frosting recipe. You can tint the frosting to match the candy clay if you'd like. I like chocolate frosting and didn't want to add extra dye, so I used {Coca Mocha Icing}. Frost the entire cake. Add a bottom border if you wish. 
Step 5: Just before serving, assemble the cake. Fasten the tassel to the square of candy clay and add a blob of icing on top and gently place on top of the cake. Pipe "Congratulations Graduates" on the top of the hat if you wish. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bite-Sized Grad Caps

These have got to be one of the cutest graduation related desserts there are around. That's why I just had to make (and feature) them again. I did feature these last year (see {Brownie Graduation Caps}), and this year I basically did the exact same thing. However, on two of the plates I did use many different color candies for the tops instead of just matching colors, and even if they do not match school colors I think they are quite attractive-looking. I also placed some of the caps in celebratory graduation paper muffin liners so they are easier for guests to pick up and eat. I had some decorative graduation toothpicks on hand to stick in the center of the plates with a little bit of extra candy clay as well. Since there isn't really any baking required to make these, there is little prep work and the assembly is quick once the tedious work of forming tassels is complete. Of course it always helps to have an assembly line set up - thanks to my parents for helping out! These are the perfect individual-sized, chocolaty but not messy desserts for parties.

Congratulations to all graduates of 2014! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Soda Cracker Haddock

Well-known fact #1: fish/seafood is one of my favorite sources of protein.
Well-known fact #2: I am always looking for different options, different flavors, and different ways of preparing this fish and seafood. 
Well-known fact #3: I have already tried breadcrumbs, multigrain cracker crumbs, and bread.

What did I try this time? Good old classic salted soda cracker crumbs. You can probably find them in most cupboards. They are definitely in every grocery store. They are what you turn to when you are sick and can't stomach much else. They are plain and simple - no flavoring, just a classic flavor good paired with a little butter or cheese or soup or nothing at all. In fact, they are even good for making "apple" pie (see {Mock Apple Pie}). Simply crush them up by hand, with a rolling pin or large pan, or in a food processor and coat the fish with them. Then pan fry until golden and crispy. Once cooked, the crackers don't really taste like crackers anymore, but do have a nice, salty buttery flavor and add a pleasant texture and crunch. This is definitely a comfort food - crackers and pan-fried haddock.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strawberry Yogurt Oatmeal

Strawberry Yogurt Oatmeal
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 handful large, fresh strawberries, sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the oats and water. Cook on medium (50%) power for four minutes, stirring after two minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Allow to stand until set. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, strawberries, and cinnamon, and add a dash of honey or vanilla extract, if desired. 
Fold the yogurt mixture into the oats and enjoy!

Now is the time to enjoy some fresh, ripe strawberries. They are delicious eaten just as is, so it is best not to mask their beautiful tasty. Here is a great way to start your day off right with some strawberries, with a hearty, creamy bowl of oatmeal. Greek yogurt is ideal for this, as the thick texture will not thin out the oatmeal, but any flavor could be used. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Coca Mocha Icing

Coca Mocha Icing
2 cups icing sugar, approximately
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1/2 cup boiling water

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cocoa until blended. In a mug, mix together the vanilla, coffee, and water. Gradually add this to the sugar mixture, stirring until smooth, until icing is of desired consistency. You may not need all of the water or you may need to add some more icing sugar. 
This is a sweet and thick chocolate glaze with a mild coffee flavor. To make a lighter glaze, decrease the amount of cocoa. To make a darker glaze, add some more cocoa or some more coffee for a stronger flavor. This icing does not need to be refrigerated since it contains no perishable ingredients. However, because it contains no fat, it is not as easily spread and is not ideal for piping. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chocolate Shell Cake

This is a chocolate shell cake I made to celebrate the start of summer vacations! It is the rectangular chocolate cake recipe I featured yesterday. Then I made a quick mocha chocolate icing, not a buttercream but a bit of a thicker icing that looks shiny and spreads easily over stiff cakes. I coated the top and sides of the cake and used a hot knife to smooth it out, then I used a cake comb to create some wave patterns in the icing, though they are difficult to see here. I used a bit of a darker chocolate icing to pipe two different shell borders, one around the top and one around the bottom. I also added a few stars on the side of the cake and a few flowers on top of the cake. Then I used some chocolate shells (and seahorses and whatnot) to decorate the rest of the cake and give it a bit of a beach-like feel. To complete the look, I also added a few sprinkles of brown sugar around the edges to resemble sand. Graham cracker crumbs would also do the trick.

Chocolate shells can be found from many chocolatiers and grocery stores as well. They usually come in boxes of chocolates and include different shapes of shells - clam shells, conch shells, snail shells, and sometimes some sea animals as well. You can purchase some good quality and some cheaper chocolate shells. The box I had had a mixture of different types of chocolate - milk, dark, white, which made for some pretty shells that taste good too.
Happy Summer!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bigger Batch Chocolate Cake

Bigger Batch Chocolate Cake
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cake pans.
In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa and water together until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in 1 cup flour, the baking soda and salt. Beat in cocoa mixture. Beat in remaining four, then buttermilk until just smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake according to pan size.
This batch will make approximately:

  • three 8-inch or 9-inch round or square pans (~40 minutes)
  • two 7x11 or 9x13 rectangular pans (~35-40 minutes)
  • one 10x15 inch pan (~25-30 minutes)
  • 36 cupcakes (~20 minutes)
  • 72 miniature cupcakes (~10-15 minutes)
  • three 9x5 inch loaf pans (~45 minutes)
  • other shaped pans of other sizes
Recipes will differ in height based on size of pan. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Above I have made one high 5 inch round and one flatter 9x5 inch fluted loaf pan. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

It is rhubarb season once again, and the small patch of rhubarb in our backyard is bearing some ripe, fresh, red rhubarb. There is no better way to enjoy this slightly tangy fruit then to pick it as fresh as possible, wash it, chop it up, and bake it into a sweet treat. My mother made this strawberry rhubarb crisp. Strawberry and rhubarb is a classic flavor pairing because they are both ripe and ready during the same season, they match with their nice ruby red color, and the flavors balance each other out. Rhubarb can stand alone but needs a considerable amount of sugar since it is so tart. Strawberries can also stand alone because they are so sweet. But pair them together and you've got the perfect balance of sweet and tart when used in the right proportion, and an entire new flavor profile. Strawberry and rhubarb are great together in pies, tarts, crisps, cobblers, buckles, muffins, and more.
Pictured here is a simple strawberry rhubarb crisp with basically the same recipe for crisp topping as an apple crisp. It is great enjoyed warm from the oven, with a little ice cream if you wish, or even eaten cold. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Double Blueberry Breakfast Parfait

This is a breakfast parfait I made for myself the other day. Although these types of parfaits are popular as breakfasts and snacks, I don't tend to make them very often. They can be quite nutritious when made with wholesome ingredients, and are a good way to layer all four food groups into one convenient cup for something quick or something to eat on the go. They are also incredibly versatile and can be tailored to any tastes. The main components are: a grain (cereal, granola, flaxseed), fresh fruit, yogurt, and sometimes nuts or seeds for some crunch. All of this is layered in a dish as desired, and it is ready to eat!
I call this version a double blueberry parfait. It used oatmeal as the base instead of granola, so I cooked some up for a smoother parfait with less crunch. It also makes the parfait a little warm, and a delicious pairing with cool and creamy yogurt, but a cold cereal may be substituted to avoid clashing with temperatures. I also chose to cook the blueberries with my oatmeal since they were frozen, but you can layer in fresh fruit if you prefer. 

In a microwaveable bowl, mix together: 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/3 cup frozen blueberries, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 2/3 cup water. Cook on medium (50%) power for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let stand for one minute.

In a tall glass or parfait dish layer as follows:
one spoonful blueberry yogurt
1/3 of the oatmeal
1 teaspoon almond butter
and repeat layers twice more


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Baked Fudge

The name pretty much accurately sums up this dessert. It is like eating a piece of chocolate fudge - but it is warm from the oven and is so much easier to make than traditional fudge. Instead of boiling and cooling the candy mixture, just mix together the ingredients and bake it. The result is a chocolaty dream with a crisp, melt-in-your-mouth upper crust, a fudgey middle layer, and a molten chocolate lava bottom. Three delicious chocolate-packed layers in one small ramekin. I cannot stress enough how delicious this recipe is considering how quick and easy it is to make. This recipe is pretty much fool-proof and will satisfy any chocolate craving. It is very sweet and rich alone, so you'll definitely only need one. It doesn't require any garnish, but a quick dusting of icing sugar, dab of whipped cream, scoop of ice cream, or some fresh berries would do the trick.
Baked Fudge
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease four large ramekins.
Beat the eggs until light, then beat in the sugar to just combine. Mix the remaining ingredients in gently. Divide batter evenly among ramekins.
Bake in a hot water bath coming halfway up the sides of the ramekins for 40-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out fudgey, not clean, and the tops will appear crisp and the batter will be firm but not completely set and not jiggly. 
Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream or a dusting of icing sugar straight from the ramekin, or you could cool them or chill them and save them for later. I imagine the batter will keep in the ramekins in the fridge if you would like to bake them later but serve them hot. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hot Milk Cake

Hot Milk Cake
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 inch square pan.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar at a time. Beat in vanilla. Stir in flower, baking powder, and salt.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat together the milk and butter until hot and butter is melted. Slowly pout over batter and stir to combine. Spread in prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This is a very quick and easy small cake recipe that could be the basis of many great desserts. Although it contains very little fat, it is very moist with a soft crumb and nice basic white cake flavor. It could be used as a lighter pound cake option for trifles, or a basic birthday cake. Sometimes this recipe is featured with a topping of brown sugar and cream and either nuts or coconut, which is then broiled for a self-frosted cake called Lazy Daisy cake. I used this cake as the base for my cherry ball cake. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cherry Ball Cake

This is the cake I made for my father for Father's Day. One of my father's favorite sweet treats of all time are cherry balls that my great aunt makes at Christmastime. So my dad usually only gets to have these once a year, but when he does, my aunt always makes sure he gets a good dose of them. I have made them for my father myself upon occasion, but he still doesn't get them very often because no one else in the house is as big of a fan of them and it's hard to make a small batch, not to mention they are a bit tedious. And they do seem more like a Christmas treat. 

The cherry balls are basically a mixture of coconut and icing sugar flavored with a little vanilla and cream wrapped around a whole maraschino cherry. The balls are then rolled in graham cracker crumbs. Instead of making some cherry balls for my father, I decided to make a cherry ball cake inspired by this sweet treat. I had made cherry ball squares before on the same premises, so why not try a cake? Father's Day does deserve a cake after all.

I began with a basic moist white coconut cake baked in an 8x8 inch square pan. Then I made a coconut brown sugar filling (because my father loves brown sugar) with chopped maraschino cherries. I used green cherries for the filling and red for the topping because that is what I had on hand, but any kind will do as they all taste the same. Red and green would make a nice cake for Christmas. Then I frosted the top of the cake with a sweet cream cheese enriched frosting (just for a little extra flavor burst) and decorated the top with shredded coconut and red cherries. I did not have any graham cracker crumbs on hand, so I just sprinkled a little brown sugar on top, which basically gives the same look but just a sweeter taste. 

Happy Father's Day! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Basic Marble Cake

This is a basic marble cake recipe I came up with just by altering my go-to, no-fail, classic chocolate cake recipe. The flavor and method works really well as a marble cake, and the result is an incredibly moist, and prettily swirled cake.

Basic Marble Cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 cup boiling water
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (heaping) unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then the sugar. Mix well. 
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the coffee and water, then beat in the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla until frothy. 
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and beat at low speed for thirty seconds to combine. Then beat at medium speed for two minutes. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. 
Sift cocoa into remaining batter and mix well. Slowly pour the chocolate batter in a thin stream over the vanilla batter in the pan, using a back and forth motion and circling around the pan to create a marbling effect. 
Bake for about 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Newspaper Cake

This is a newspaper cake I made to celebrate the success of the local highschool newspaper. This may not sound like a huge deal, but this year's newspaper committee managed to publish ten issues within the ten months of school - one issue per month. This may seem low when compared to daily newspapers, but for a paper based around school news and student's writings and artwork, this is quite impressive. Considering past years have had two or three submissions over the entire year, I think this year deserved a cake. So I whipped up a quick marble cake with a butter frosting and a chocolate fudge frosting. I made a star border around the top, which I thought was most appropriate for a newspaper cake, and a rope border around the bottom. At the top is the newspaper name in bold and the logo, and below are three article titles with some little pictures. Congratulations to an awesome newspaper committee!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cupcake Birthday Cards

Remember all the cupcake stuff I got for Christmas? If not, take a look at these posts: {A Cupcake Christmas}, {Gifts of Cupcakes}, and {Year of the Cupcake}. Well, my birthday turned out to be somewhat similar. However, it wasn't gifts this time - I actually didn't receive many cupcake-related gifts at all. This time it was cupcake cards. The majority of my birthday cards have cupcakes on them, and some others have just cakes. I also received two nice cupcake gift bags. Also pictured here is a tiny cupcake frame. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Porridge

Peanut Butter Banana Porridge
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2/3 - 3/4 cup milk or water
1/2 large ripe banana, mashed
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
cinnamon, vanilla extract, honey, if desired
Cook the oats in the liquid in the microwave or on the stove as directed. Meanwhile, mash together the banana, peanut butter, and flax. Swirl this mixture into the cooked oatmeal, and add a flavoring or other garnish is desired. Serve immediately.

Peanut butter, banana, and oatmeal are three of my favorite foods - put them together and you've got a warm, hearty, and delicious breakfast. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All-Butter Pie Crust

All-Butter Pie Crust
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar, or a pinch for a savory pie
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 teaspoons apple cider or white vinegar
approximately 1/3 cup ice-cold water

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse in 1/3 of the butter until combined. Pulse in the remaining butter to form coarse crumbs. Add the vinegar; pulse quickly a few times while adding 1/3 cup ice water. If dough is still crumbly, add a little more ice water, one Tablespoon at a time, being careful not to overwork dough.
Flatten dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Use dough as needed. Rolled out to 1/8-inch thick, it will make one 9-inch pie crust. 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

This is a chicken pot pie my parents made the other day. I won't include an exact recipe for it, since I don't know it. Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes that never seems to have an exact recipe - amounts differ slightly, vegetables in the filling differ slightly, and seasoning is always different. These things always depend on how much you want to make, what you like, and what you have on hand. This chicken pot pie contains carrots, onions, peas and potatoes, as well as pepper and chicken stock for flavor and a little milk for richness. It then has an all-butter flaky pie crust, for which I will share the recipe tomorrow. The basic procedure is to sauté the vegetables in a little oil in a pot beforehand, jsut until they are tender crisp, as they will not fully bake in the oven. Potatoes may even require parboiling. Alternatively, canned or frozen vegetables could be used instead - saving a lot of prep time. After they are cooked, the pre-cooked, shredded chicken is added, followed by some chicken stock and milk and maybe some flour or cream, as well as any seasoning, are added to the vegetables. This is then transferred to a baking dish. We opted only for a top crust, but if you would like a bottom crust too, the filling would be put into a pre-baked crust instead. The top crust is placed over, and the pie is baked in the oven until the filling is hot and the crust is golden. This is a great way to use leftovers that isn't too complicated, and chicken pot pie is great comfort food that can also be enjoyed the next day. Actually, any meat could be used for this. And it is easy to make a big batch to have some on hand in the freezer in a pinch.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Mediterranean Bean Salad

Mediterranean Bean Salad
1 can mixed beans, no salt added (includes red kidney beans, white kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, romano beans, baby lima beans)
1 can sliced black olives
1 jar sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
ground black pepper

Drain the beans and olives and dump then into a boil. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil and the pepper. Mix together and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least several hours.

Recipe Notes: Depending on your tastes, you may not use the entire can of olives and jar of tomatoes. If you cannot find one can of bean mix, individual cans of each type of bean may be used. Just not this will make a larger quantity and may require more olives and tomatoes. The olives provide enough salt for me, but you could add a pinch of salt, dash of sugar, or other herbs and spoices if you'd prefer. 
Makes several side servings of a high-protein, tasty salad accompaniment to almost any meal. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Vegetable Cheese Stuffed Manicotti

This is a very tasty vegetarian pasta dish with a bit more elegance. It requires a few extra steps of preparation, much like making a lasagna. However, the effort is totally worth it. To shave off some preparation time, use a can or bottle of sauce and use a food processor to cut up the vegetables. This could also be prepared in advance and baked shortly before serving. Leftovers are excellent reheated. The amounts given for vegetables are only relative and may be varied - just not the vegetables cook down a lot and you barely even notice them in the cheesy filling! This should make enough filling for fourteen manicotti shells, but we have discovered that extra filling is delicious if baked in a ramekin. 
Vegetable Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
1 small can tomato sauce
14 manicotti shells, cooked and drained
1 teaspoon oil
1 medium shredded carrot (1/2 cup)
1/2 shredded zucchini (1/2 cup) 
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (one container)
1/2 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom of a rectangular baking pan.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the vegetables until tender-crisp. Stir in cottage cheese. Fill each manicotti shell with this mixture, then place in the baking dish. Spoon sauce over top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes until hot.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

My Birthday Cakes

So here is a little more background story to my birthday cakes of the past. As a child, my parents always ensured my brothers and I got the birthday cake we wanted every year. We would choose the flavor, and the designs. These designs sometimes seemed a little daunting or crazy, but my parents always delivered (within reason). They have crafted together cat cakes, a butterfly cake, a flower cake, a SpongeBob SquarePants cake, a baseball field cake, a tennis racket cake, a beach cake, ipod cakes, teddy bear cakes, and more delicious, creative, and pretty masterpieces. In addition, when my brothers and I had birthday parties, my parents would usually make two cakes for us - one for our party with our friends and one (usually simpler without a themed design) for the family at home. My brothers and I always appreciated these cakes, and our friends always thought they were incredible.

Last year I requested a specific type of cake from my parents, but not a themed-decorated cake, just a chocolate fruit angel food cake. The year before that, my boyfriend and I made a cake together, and my parents made me a surprise cake. The year before that, I asked my cake to be a complete surprise. This year, my parents had an idea in mind for my cake that I did not know about. For the past three years, I have been trying to convince them to let me make my own cake. Last year I did make a cake, but also had two others. The year before I helped make a cake but also received another cake. This year I gave up and let them make my cake. Personally since I love to bake and cake decorate, I would have no problem making my own cake and getting exactly what I want. But many people agree that it just isn't right to make your own birthday cake. 
One of my favorite birthday cakes - i-pod cakes. Intricate and tedious - yet tasty and fun!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 10-inch (3 liter) Bundt pan. 
In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. 
In a separate medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture in three additions, alternately with milk in two additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat well after each addition. Beat additionally for two minutes at medium speed. 
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan before transferring to a rack to cool completely. 
This is the recipe my parents used to make my birthday cake from yesterday's post. Although this is considered a pound cake, it is by no means heavy, but fluffy. It is a bit on the dense and dark side, and not too moist and difficult to frost. I have never actually had chocolate pound cake before this, though I have had plain, vanilla, and brown sugar pound cake before. Fresh, real ingredients such as butter, vanilla, eggs, and cocoa are a necessity for great flavor. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

My 2014 Birthday Cake

This is my birthday cake for this year. If you want to see reasons and debate with regards to why I cannot make my own birthday cake, see posts around June 4th from 2013 and 2012. Anyway, this was the cake my parents decided to make for me this year, which was a complete surprise that had been planned for months that I didn't really get any say in.

This is a chocolate pound cake baked in a bundt pan from one of my (many) chocolate recipe books. It then has the typical chocolate ganache glaze I have recently been turning to more and more lately, as it is so quick, easy, and delicious. Then the top is decorated with some light purple buttercream (my favorite color) and the piping "Happy Birthday Rebecca" in white buttercream. 
Honestly, this is a quite large cake. I didn't realize it was pound cake until my mother told me though - it isn't really heavy and dense. And the crumbs I got to try from the pan yesterday were fluffy, chocolaty and delicious. You can never go wrong with some chocolate ganache, and I appreciate the use of real butter in the buttercream frosting. Buttercream and chocolate ganache are something I could eat by the spoonful. My only slight criticism is perhaps the cake is a little dry due to the fact that is was not completely covered in frosting or ganache - but that's not typical for bundt cakes anyway. And I suppose it allows you to eat a larger slice of cake without being overoaded with sweetness (not that that would be too much frosting for me - there is never too much frosting for me).

Thanks Mom and Dad for another great birthday cake! It wouldn't have bothered me at all to make my own cake, but I suppose sometimes it is nice to sit and relax and have someone else cater to you. It is delicious and definitely gives a nice dose of chocolate (a necessity to suit my tastes). 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Oatmeal Molasses Machine Bread

Oatmeal Molasses Machine Bread
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one large loaf, although size setting will depend on machine. 

What better bread flavor than the classic molasses oatmeal? This is a darker loaf with a color rich in molasses and whole wheat flour. It is a fluffy bread with a little more substance to it due to the oats. It is a nutritious, sturdy breakfast or sandwich bread. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Butterscotch Oat Drops

Butterscotch Oat Drops
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon each: baking powder, baking soda, and salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by teaspoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set. 
This is a cookie recipe I have made, my mother has made, and some of my friends have made. It seems to turn out a little differently every time, seemingly dependent upon the technique as well as the weather. The cookies are very soft and moist when warm, and either soft and chewy or crisp and crunchy once cooled, depending on how long they are baked. Sometimes they are soft and flat like a sweet oatcake, sometimes they are thin and crispy like an oat crisp, sometimes they are thick and chewy like an oatmeal cookie, and sometimes they are soft and round. However they turn out, the taste is buttery and full of brown sugar. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Cinnamon Espresso Bars

This is a quick and easy bar recipe with a nice espresso flavor. They are enjoyed by coffee lovers and non-coffee drinkers alike. They are soft and cake-like with a sweet drizzle and are very easy to make, cut, store, and transport. 
Cinnamon Espresso Bars
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee (dry)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 to 5 teaspoons cold espresso coffee or strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan. 
BARS: In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter and egg. Stir in remaining bar ingredients. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until top springs back when touched in center.

GLAZE: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix all glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over bars while warm.