Friday, February 25, 2011

Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Almond Pancakes

Controlling cravings when you've cut carbs or gluten can be especially hard when it comes to breakfast or brunch. Between baskets of muffins and stacks of pancakes, there's often enough on the table to make your dietary restrictions dampen the morning fun. Luckily, you don't have to pass on a pancake breakfast if you whip up a batch of these wheat-free pancakes. Using almond flour and flaxseed means these dense, filling hotcakes are high in fiber (three grams per serving) as well as protein (six grams per serving). 

Wheat-Free Pancakes

Makes 14 four-inch pancakes

  • 3 cups almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, light coconut milk, or milk
  • 2 tablespoons extra-light olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, or butter, melted

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, flaxseed, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the milk and oil or butter and whisk thoroughly.
  3. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Add more milk as necessary, one tablespoon at a time, to reach pancake-batter consistency.
  4. Lightly oil a skillet and heat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the skillet. Cook for three minutes, or until bubbles form and edges are cooked. Flip and cook for three minutes or until underside is lightly browned. Repeat with remaining batter.
  5. Serve with desired toppings.


These pancakes have almost no sugar, so serve with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or your favorite maple syrup if you'd like to sweeten them. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ranch Chicken

Lately I've been searching the Internet for some easy Weight Watcher meals.  Yes, I back trying to lose those extra pounds I gained this month. I don't remember where I found this recipe but it is definitely easy and absolutely delicious!  One 4 ounce chicken breast is only 5 points.

Ranch Chicken
  • 4  (4 oz.)skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1 cup cornflakes, crushed
  • 1 packet of dry Ranch Dressing mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-fat cooking spray.

In a large Ziploc bag, put the crushed cornflakes and Ranch Dressing mix.  Set aside.  Salt and pepper the chicken to taste.  Coat both sides of each chicken breast with sour cream. One by one, put coated chicken in the bag of seasoned cornflakes and gently shake until well coated.  Put chicken in the baking dish and lightly spray some cooking spray on top of the coated chicken.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Barbecue Pulled Chicken

This BBQ pulled chicken recipe is a fanciful reinterpretation of pulled pork that slow-cooks chicken in lots of tangy tomato sauce. Have sliced jalapenos, sliced red onions and some sour cream on hand to top this barbecue pulled chicken, which makes a hearty main course. You can turn it into an unbelievable sandwich or serve it on mashed potatoes or even whole-grain spaghetti. Serve with shredded napa cabbage tossed with low-fat mayonnaise, cider vinegar, celery seed and honey to taste.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken

Makes: 8 servings

  • 1 8-ounce can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  1. Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground chipotle and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.
  2. Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve.

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chocolate Layer Cake

It's really perfect cake — tasting deeply of chocolate, with dark, almost bitter notes that penetrate the whole bite. It isn't a dense fudgy flourless torte; it's a simple yet true chocolate cake, suitable for layering and frosting. Basically, it's the recipe you're looking for when you want a layer cake, a birthday cake for a budding chocolate-lover, a base for German chocolate cake, or any others in the host of reasons to make "chocolate cake" cake..

Chocolate Layer Cake

Makes three 9-inch round layers

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans. (Or, instead of flour, you can use cocoa powder, to match the color of the cake.)

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixer bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat with a mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Mix in boiling water. The batter will be quite thin. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean.

Set the pans on wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Then, lightly run a knife around the inside of the pans to help the cake edges release. Flip the cake pans over, one by one, and tap firmly with the palms of your hands. Carefully lift up the cake pan; the cake should release easily. If it doesn't drop right out, drape with a warm wet towel while continuing to tap.

Cool the cake layers completely before frosting. 


Looking for the icing recipe? I used a very basic cocoa buttercream for the cake in the photos (whip butter for several minutes with cocoa and powdered sugar, adjusting each until you get the flavor you want)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Praline Crumb Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Enjoy cheesecake in the form of an easy bar with layers of caramel, rich toffee and crunchy nuts..

Praline Crumb Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Servings: 36


Cookie Base and Topping:
  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix 
  • 1/2 cup cold butter or margarine 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans 
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits 

  • 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup caramel topping 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 egg 

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place cookie mix in bowl; cut in butter using pastry blender or fork until mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, 1/4 cup of the caramel topping, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
  3. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked cookie base. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping, pecans and toffee bits.
  4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup caramel topping. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator. 

*Cold butter is needed to create a "just right" streusel and crust texture.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Burger and Fries Pot Pie

Beef and potatoes come together in this cheesy pot pie that’s baked to perfection - a savory dinner..

Burger and Fries Pot Pie

Servings: 6


  • 1 1/2 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef 
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz) 
  • 2 cups frozen crispy French-fried potatoes (from 20-oz bag) 


  1. Heat oven to 450°F. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain well. Sprinkle flour over beef mixture. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes; heat to boiling. Remove from heat.
  2. In ungreased 1 1/2-quart casserole, spread beef mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange frozen potatoes evenly in single layer on top.
  3. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 


Be sure to drain the cooked ground beef really well. Any extra juices will make the pot pie too watery.

When it’s too cold outside to grill those burgers, comfort food calls, and this pot pie will surely hit the spot!

Serve this pot pie with ketchup, if desired.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

The ingredients below make 32 little Crescent Poppers.  It's easy for a grown man to shovel about 8 of these in his mouth without thinking about it. :D  So depending on who you're having over, you might want to get another tube of Crescent Rolls and one more cube of cream cheese.  Don't worry about the Jalapenos, you will have enough for a second batch with this one can.  Unless you want over the top spicy poppers.

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Poppers 

  • 1 tube regular Crescent Rolls
  • 1 (4 ounce) can Diced Jalapenos (you will actually only use half of this can)
  • 3/4 (8 ounce) cube cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven 375 degrees.

Cut your cube of cream cheese and throw about 3/4 of it into a bowl.  Now take almost half of your Jalapenos from the can and throw in with your cream cheese.

This is the type of jalapenos I can get at my local grocery store.  They are diced up really fine and work perfectly.  But if you prefer to use fresh Jalapenos, then go for it.  I just didn't want to get my fingers all spicy in case I need to rub my eyes anytime soon.

To your bowl with your cream cheese and Jalapenos, add your Tablespoon of sugar.  

To me, this sugar addition is important.  I like the sweet, spicy taste. The sugar is not overwhelming, it's just the perfect accent.  I mean really, anyone can add cream cheese and jalapenos to a crescent roll, but not everyone adds sugar.  It's our little secret.

Take your fork and mash it all up really well.  Be sure to incorporate all that sugar in really well.

This is where I like to do a little taste test.  I prefer a bit more spicy poppers, so I added just a bit more jalapenos.

These are not really as hot as they might appear, but then maybe that's just me.  So ya better test it first.

Set your bowl of cream cheese jalapenos aside for now.

Open up your tube of crescent rolls and place on your cutting board.

Separate them into two rectangles, it should look like this, with all the little perforations.

Now pinch together the perforations to create two nice rectangles.  Sometimes I like to use my little mini rolling pin afterwards, to make it a nice and smooth rectangle.

With the back of your spoon, spread half of the cream cheese mixture, onto one of the rectangles. Save the other half of the mixture for the other rectangle.  (You will have TWO rectangles per tube of crescent rolls.)

Get to spreading.

Once you've spread your half portion of cream cheese on one of your rectangles, start with the LONG end of the roll, and get to rolling.

Once it's all rolled up, you will need to cut your log into 16 pinwheels.

Don't be nervous, I'm not very good at math, but I've found a really easy way to do this so it all comes out evenly.

Get a sharp knife. Really sharp if you have one.

Cut your log right in half. Now you should have two logs.  Then cut those two logs in half, and now you should have four logs. 

Get the idea?  I'm so smart, I amaze myself sometimes.

So now you should have four logs.

Now, cut these dolls in half and now you have eight smaller logs.

Now of course, last but not least, cut these little sweet-ums in half.

You now have 16 pinwheel poppers.

Note:  This is where you could refrigerate these little guys if you wanted to make them ahead of time.  Then just bake them right when the Gang is getting antsy.

Place your 16 poppers, standing up, on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with Pam.  Don't forget this step cause you sure don't want to be prying off your stuck-on poppers in front of your guests now do ya?

Make sure you stand them up, with the cream cheese facing upward.

Pop these into the oven for about 13 minutes until they are golden brown.  Keep an eye on them, as each oven varies.

Once your first batch is in the oven, get to spreading and rollin and cutting the other rectangle. Man I'm bossy.

Once they are done, immediately slide them off the cookie sheet, onto a plate, walk that plate into your crowd of hungry guests, and hear the Ohhs and Ahhs :D

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blackberry Jam Cake

At my work we have a breakfast club. So that every Friday some one brings in breakfast. It's not mandatory but a lot of people do participate. So because so many people participate you only have to make breakfast 3 or 4 times a year. So I use this time to test out new recipes and it gives me an excuse to not serve the same thing twice. So I had made this cake before but before I started my blog so I figured why not make it so that I can post it. I really like this cake, its slightly spicy and has a hint of blackberry flavor. It's always a crowd pleaser and it transports very well. Not to toot my own horn but my breakfast day is highly regarded as the best breakfast day and everyone looks forward to it. So I must impress. And this cake does the trick.

Blackberry Jam Cake

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of blackberry preserves (do not use jelly)
  • 1/2 cup of blackberry preserves
  • 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 12 cup bundt cake pan with non stick baking spray. In a bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time and scrape down the bowl after each egg. Add in the vanilla and beat until combined. Add a 1/3 of the flour into the butter mixture alternating with1/2 the sour cream beating after each addition. Fold in the blackberry preserves. Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 300 for 15 minutes then increase the heat to 350 and bake for 40-50. Or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it out onto rack to cool completely.

Once cooled heat the 1/2 cup of blackberry preserves in a small sauce pan until melted and then remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar. Do this to the consistency that you desire so you can use more or less of either ingredient. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Brown Butter, Peas, and Mint Omelette

Rich, nutty brown butter perfectly offsets the fresh flavor of sweet peas and mint.

Brown Butter, Peas, and Mint Omelette


  • ⅓ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp. grated pecorino romano
  • 2 tbsp. thinly sliced mint leaves


1. Bring a 1-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook until tender, 1 minute; drain and transfer in a bowl. Stir in oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper; set aside.

2. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Heat butter in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook until milky foam settles at the bottom of the skillet and turns nut brown. Add eggs; cook, without stirring, until large curds form, 3-4 minutes, then gently stir until eggs are almost set. Using a rubber spatula, pat eggs into an even layer. Place peas, half the cheese, and mint leaves over eggs. Remove from heat and using spatula, roll omelette up and over filling; slide omelette onto a plate and garnish with remaining mint and cheese.

Burrito Pie

This is a lot like a lasagna, only Mexican-style! Serve like a pie and garnish with sour cream, salsa, lettuce and tomato. Make sure you like spicy foods before trying this one. It's hot!

Burrito Pie


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (2 ounce) can black olives, sliced
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar taco sauce
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans refried beans
  • 12 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 9 ounces shredded Colby cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef for 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 5 more minutes. Drain any excess fat, if desired. Mix in the olives, green chile peppers, tomatoes with green chile peppers, taco sauce and refried beans. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture in the bottom of a 4 quart casserole dish. Cover with a layer of tortillas followed by more meat mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat tortilla, meat, cheese pattern until all the tortillas are used, topping off with a layer of meat mixture and cheese.
  4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baked Zucchini Sticks and Sweet Onion Dip

Here's a guilt-free way to enjoy the crunchy outside (and juicy inside) of a restaurant-style zucchini stick

Baked Zucchini Sticks and Sweet Onion Dip

Yield: about 3 dozen zucchini sticks, and 1 1/2 cups dip


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste

Zucchini sticks:
  • 3 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 3"-long stick
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup coarse, dry bread crumbs (e.g., panko)
  • scant 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning or mixed Italian herbs
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute; or 2 large eggs; or 3 egg whites, lightly beaten


1) To make the dip: Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over moderate heat, and add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, then caramelize. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the less likely you are to burn the onions.

2) Once the onions are a medium brown, remove from the heat and add the vinegar.

3) Place the onions and vinegar into a small food processor. Add the honey and mustard, and process or blend until smooth.

4) Add the mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

5) To make the zucchini sticks: Place the zucchini sticks in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Let the zucchini drain for 1 hour or longer; rinse and pat dry.

6) Combine the Panko, Parmesan, and pizza seasoning; set aside.

7) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spray the parchment with olive oil.

8) Dredge sticks a few at a time in the egg, then roll in the crumb mixture. Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet.

9) Bake sticks for 12 minutes, turn over, and bake for an additional 8 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

10) Serve immediately, with sweet onion dip.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones

What are you making? It smells like a fall day..." That was the reaction the first time I baked these moist, flavorful scones. Fresh diced apple and cinnamon chips complement each other beautifully, flavor-wise; and a topping of crunchy, cinnamon-enhanced coarse sugar is the perfect foil to the scones' tender texture.

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones

Yield: 12 scones


  • 2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh apple, in 1/2" pieces (about half a medium apple); leave the skin on, if you like
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened preferred

  • 3 tablespoons coarse white sparkling sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spice.

2) Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.

3) Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon chips.

4) In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and applesauce.

5) Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.

6) Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don't have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.

7) Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Gently pat and round each half into a 5" to 5 1/2" circle about 3/4" thick.

8) To make the topping: Stir together the coarse sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the topping.

9) Using a knife or bench knife that you've run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

10) Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2" space between them, at their outer edges.

11) For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.

12) Bake the scones for 18 to 22 minutes, or until they're golden brown. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the say through; the edge shouldn't look wet or unbaked.

13) Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they're completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.

Why freeze the scones before baking? Because 30 minutes in the freezer relaxes the gluten in the flour, which makes the scones more tender and allows them to rise higher. It also chills the fat, which will make the scones a bit flakier.

To make free-form rather than wedge-shaped scones, increase the applesauce to 3/4 cup. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, dollop the scone dough in 1/3-cupfuls onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the scones in a preheated 375°F oven for about 30 minutes.

Scones are best served warm. They're delicious as is, but add butter and/or jam (or apple butter), if you like. To reheat room-temperature scones, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil, and warm in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pesto Chicken Tart

My local pizzeria has this as a pizza on their menu. I only buy it every once in a while though, because I'm generally inclined to eat the whole thing in one sitting… ;)

Weeknight Recipe: Pesto Chicken Tart

Makes dinner for 2, appetizers for 4

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 1 small head of peeled garlic cloves (optional)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons basil pesto, homemade or store bought
  • 1 scant cup cooked, diced chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes. If using garlic, place cloves on a baking sheet and cook in the oven until soft and light golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Allow the cloves to cool and then chop finely.

Unfold the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, pressing and pinching to close any holes in the seams. Using a fork, prick the dough all over—including the edges—to prevent it from puffing during baking.

Brush the pesto in a thin layer over the dough. Scatter the roasted garlic across the pesto. Toss the chicken with a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Layer the chicken on the tart, followed by the mozzarella and the Parmesan. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Bake until the the cheese is melted and light golden brown, approximately 15-25 minutes (start checking early). Remove the tart from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Note: You can easily sub pizza or flat bread dough in this recipe, or any other bread base you can think of. Also, I scattered some diced tomatoes on one of my slices for some extra color (see last photo); feel free to do the same if you have some ripe ones lying around.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

These cupcakes are entirely, and perhaps gratuitously, luxurious. Make them for a crowd who will truly appreciate them, like a weekend reunion with your college roommates or a passel of hungry five-year-olds. Their eyes should close on the first bite and they shouldn't care that chocolate is smeared across their cheeks. You want to hear deep sighs of satisfaction.

Don't be intimidated by the steps in this recipe. It looks like a lot but boils down to forming an assembly line. You can make the cupcake part the day ahead, or even freeze them for a few weeks, but wait to add the pastry cream and chocolate until a few hours before you want to serve. If you have to transport them, set aside some extra time for the chocolate to fully set.

And incidentally, if you're craving Boston Cream Pie in its full-on cake form, just double everything in this recipe. Bake the cake in two 9" cake pans, sandwich them with pastry cream, and pour the chocolate ganache over top.

Boston Cream Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (8 oz) white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (5 1/2 oz) buttermilk

For the pastry cream filling:
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup (5 1/2 oz) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) heavy cream


To make the cupcakes:

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. Spray the top of the muffin top with non-stick coating.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

With a standing mixer fit with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until they turn light yellow and look like frosting. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour until the flour is just barely combine. Beat in half of the buttermilk. Continue alternating between the flour and the buttermilk, ending with the last of the flour.

Divide the batter between the cupcake liners. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the cupcakes are domed and beginning to turn golden. Let them cool in the muffin tin for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack. Make sure the cupcakes are completely cool before assembling.

To make the pastry cream:

Have a strainer over a heat-proof bowl standing ready near the stove.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks to form a sticky paste.

Warm the milk in a small sauce pan just until you see it beginning to steam. Remove it from heat and pour a little into the egg mixture. Quickly whisk the eggs to thin out the paste. When you see no more lumps, slowly pour the rest of the milk into the eggs while continuing to whisk.

Pour the milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Whisk constantly. At first, the mixture will feel very loose and liquidy, but it will start to thicken in a few minutes. It's important to keep whisking so the eggs on don't cook. When the pastry cream has thickened to the consistency of pudding, stop whisking and check for bubbles. If you see large bubbles plopping on the surface, the pastry cream is done.

Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour the pastry cream through the strainer set over the bowl, stirring until it has all fallen through. The strainer will catch any eggs that started to curdle. Press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper directly to the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until completely chilled.

To assemble the cupcakes:

Use a paring knife to cut cones from the center of each cupcake. Angle your knife toward the center of the cupcake and cut a quarter-sized circle. Fill the hole with a tablespoon or two of cooled pastry cream.

To make the ganache, set the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Warm the milk until it's steaming and pour it over the chocolate. Let this stand for a minute, then mix until they form a thick, glossy paste. Pour a generous spoonful of ganache over each cupcake, spreading it with the back of the spoon to even out the top.

The cupcakes can be eaten immediately while the ganache is still warm, or you can wait an hour or two until the ganache has set (if the weather is hot or humid, place the cupcakes in the fridge until the chocolate is set). Once the ganache is set, the cupcakes can be served with less mess or packed for transport elsewhere.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars

Love at first bite..

SUCH an overworked expression, but still… when you’re talking cheesecake, the tiniest bite is capable of sending you into paroxysms of ardor. The richness of the cream cheese! The delightful interplay of tangy and sweet; the barely crunchy crust cradling its ultra-smooth filling…

Creamy, vanilla-scented bars, perfect with a cup of coffee. 

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 16 servings


  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 8 whole crackers
  • 4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter

  • 16 ounces (2 large packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract or Vanilla Bean Crush
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel, optional
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional


1) Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2) To make the crust: Stir together the crumbs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and melted butter.

3) Press into the bottom and about 1/2" inch up the sides of an 8" x 8" square pan.

4) Freeze for 15 minutes if using a metal pan (not necessary if using ceramic or glass). Note: this is to prevent the edges of the crust from slumping. If you're not worried about slumping (and in our testing, it only happened some of the time), you can skip this step.

5) Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, until set; the color won't change much.

6) Remove the crust from the oven and cool for a few minutes while you lower the oven temperature to 325°F.

7) To make the batter: Mix the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.

8) Add the cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice; mix until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you mix.

9) Spoon the batter into the crust.

10) Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is set but still soft in the center. An instant-read thermometer, inserted into the filling about 1" in from the edge, will read about 180°F.

11) Remove the bars from the oven, and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

12) Just before serving, top with fresh berries, fruit pie filling, or whipped cream. 

Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

The question, "What are we having for dinner?" is quite often followed closely by, "What are we having with dinner?" Roasted vegetables are one of our favorite answers to the question of the quick weeknight side dish, and my latest pick for roasted goodness is broccoli. This recipe takes just a few minutes to throw into the oven and it emerges toasty around the edges and garlicky and a little spicy, if you like. 

I have strong feelings about cooked broccoli. Like green beans, it's a vegetable that's often left nearly raw, under the assumption that it's healthier or better-tasting when not overcooked into mush. Now, I'm not a fan of mush, but broccoli (and green beans) are tough, fibrous vegetables, and when cooking them I find it better to really have at them until they are supple and tender. Which is not to say that I don't appreciate raw broccoli; in slaws I like its snappy crunch. But it should go one way or the other, not sit in the middle, confused.

This recipe roasts the broccoli until it's quite tender in the center, and until the florets develop a bit of char around the edges. This adds so much flavor to the dish, giving the lie to the idea that the only way to make vegetables really irresistible is to add lots of fat.

It's also so easy to throw a head of broccoli in the oven, tossed with a little oil, garlic, and vinegar (red pepper flakes too, if you have a taste for the spicy). While the broccoli roasts you can make a pot of pasta, or a pan of chicken. It's the side dish that goes with nearly anything, on nearly any evening. 

Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

Serves 4

  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Red pepper flakes, optional
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish 


Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, and slice the stems into diagonal bite-sized pieces. (Peel the broccoli stems if you want to; I don't bother.)

Blend the olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic, and salt in a small food processor until thick and creamy. (Or smash the garlic in a mortar and pestle and whisk in a bowl with the other dressing ingredients.) If desired, add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss with the broccoli and spread on a baking sheet.

Roast for 12 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender and the edges are singed. If you desire an extra measure of smokiness, switch the oven to broil, and move the baking sheet up to the highest rack. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with wedges of lemon. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Billionaire Bars

Meet Mr. Billionaire Bars.  I had a very pleasant date with him after lunch today.
(Just kidding, hubs - love ya!)

Seriously though...I made these bars yesterday for a teacher appreciation event.  I saved a few and proceeded to EAT.  THEM.  ALL!  Help!  They are really good.  A base of buttery shortbread, topped with a layer of caramel and then...then...3 different kinds of chocolate all swirled together.  Mercy!   Decadent, that is the only word I can think of to adequately describe them.  Here is the recipe.  You do have to dirty up a few dishes, but on the bright side--you don't need a mixer.  Enjoy folks!

Recipe >> Billionaire Bars @

A Tuna Fish Recipe for Vegetarians: Chickpea of the Sea

A tuna fish sandwich is a classic lunch choice, but for a variety of reasons some people are staying away from tuna these days. Here's a vegetarian (and vegan) alternative version for those who miss that tangy, creamy lunchtime treat. Ask any mermaid you happen to see, this version is a winner! 

Depending on what kind you buy, it can be unethical, not to mention downright dangerous, to consume tuna. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch has the details, but basically some tuna can contain dangerous amounts of mercury and if fished improperly, can result in large quantities of bycatch of threatened and endangered species. 

Chickpea of the Sea uses delicious, healthy chickpeas instead of canned tuna. The salty umeboshi vinegar introduces a seafood-like flavor, and I've heard that crumpling in some dried seaweed (like half a sheet of toasted nori) is also delicious. Both can be found in well-stocked grocery stores and specialty stores that carry Japanese ingredients. I would imagine a few capers would work as well.

This recipe is based on one from The Kripalu Cookbook and has been in my mother's repertoire for 15 years. My mother is decidedly not a vegetarian, which attests to just how good this sandwich spread is! So give it a try next time you want something just a little different. It comes together in minutes, even if you go the unplugged route.

Chickpea of the Sea Sandwich

adapted from The Kripalu Cookbook. Makes 2 to 4 sandwiches

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery, from about one rib
  • 2 tablespoons sliced scallions, from about about two scallions
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Whole grain or artisan-style bread, to serve
  • Lettuce leaves, washed and dried well, to serve


Place chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse two or three times to roughly chop. Add remaining ingredients and pulse two or three times more to incorporate.

Lay out the bread and place the lettuce leaves on two slices. Spoon on the Chickpea of the Sea and top with the other slice of bread. Cut in half and enjoy!

Vegan Alternative:
Use vegan mayo or a vinaigrette in place of the mayonnaise.

Unplugged Alternative:
Place the drained chickpeas in a bowl and mash slightly with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. You may want to chop the celery and onions a little finer for this version, since they won't be getting an additional chop in the processor.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

There are very few foods that feed a large crowd with little effort. Tacos may be the simplest option for feeding a lot of people, and today I am bringing you one of my favorite taco stuffings: Barbacoa beef, tender and full rich, complex flavors. Yes, did you know you can make that tasty stuff you buy at Chipotle in your own kitchen — and in your slow cooker no less?

I have a serious thing for barbacoa. It's a love affair to be written about as in the steamiest of romance novels. (You know, if those were about food, instead of people.) Barbacoa is full of flavor and so simple to make. It's a set-it-and-forget-about-it type meal that can be made with little preparation in your slow cooker.

Barbacoa is a simple dish that can be made into all sorts of meals. You might make tacos, burritos, extreme nachos, even hash for breakfast in the morning. Once it's prepared, the uses are endless and knowing you have some on hand always makes for good eats.

So, even if you're not having thirty football crazed fans over to your house for the Super Bowl, make the full amount anyway. It's a perfect recipe to freeze for later. Use a muffin tin to freeze individual portions. Pour the sauce over the top to help the meat freeze in one solid chunk. When frozen solid, pop out the individual muffin cup portions and toss them in a freezer bag or container for more long-term storage.

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Makes enough meat to stuff 30 tacos

  • 4 chipotle peppers (from a can), minced, plus all the adobo sauce it sits in
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and cloves smashed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 5 to 7 pounds beef brisket
  • 4 to 6 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 5 bay leaves

To serve:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Diced onions
  • Minced cilantro
  • Salsa 


Stir together the chipotle peppers and their sauce, cilantro, red onion, garlic, clove, salt, lime juice, and cider vinegar and pour into a 7-quart slow cooker (if you have a food processor, you can also pulse till combined before adding). Place the brisket on top of this mixture. (Cut the brisket into a few pieces if necessary to better fit in the slow cooker.) Add stock to cover the meat and place the bay leaves on top. Use tongs to turn the meat a few times in the sauce.

Put the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 8 to 10 hours on LOW. When done cooking, it should shred easily with two forks.

Transfer the meat from slow cooker to a rimmed baking sheet. Use two forks to pull the meat apart. Discard the fat, if desired (though if you plan on frying it again before use, the small fat bits are extra tasty and should be kept!). Place the shredded beef in large bowl and ladle the cooking liquid over the top a few scoops at a time. You want the meat to hold the liquid but not swim in it; you may not need to use all of the cooking liquid. (The leftover liquid is very tasty and can be frozen in cube-sized portions for use in later dishes.)

To keep the barbacoa warm for guests, you can return the shredded beef to your slow cooker and keep it warm on the WARM setting. Serve with fresh tortillas, onion, cilantro, and salsa.


• Doubling this recipe: If your slow cooker is large enough to hold double the amount of meat, you can simple double the recipe. Otherwise, plan ahead and make two batches back to back. Once the meat is shredded, it should be reduced enough in volume to be warmed in a single slow cooker.

• Using Other Cuts of Meat: Other than brisket, any tough "roast" cut will work: shoulder or rump roast, top or bottom round. Similar cuts of pork, lamb, or goat also make fine substitutes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

I've made a lot of breakfast casseroles, but this is the first one to be layered in such a distinct way. Usually I jumble the bread, meat, and cheese all up together. This one is baked in layers, like a strata, with the bread on the bottom, then the pancetta, cheese, and herbs. This makes for a beautiful presentation and a very tasty dish; I liked how the layers looked as they were spooned out.

A couple notes: While the make-ahead aspect of this dish is very convenient, you don't have to make it ahead. You can also throw it together and bake it immediately.

Make-Ahead Brunch Recipe: "Ham & Cheese" Breakfast Casserole

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 cups (loosely packed) day-old challah or other egg-enriched bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 pound pancetta (thickly sliced), diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, from about 4 ounces


Grease an 8-inch square baking dish (or another 1 1/2 quart to 2-quart baking dish) and spread the cubed challah in the bottom.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium to low heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Sauté until they are lightly caramelized (a medium golden brown color), about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another heavy skillet, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the pancetta until the fat is almost all rendered and it begins to get crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, dry mustard, nutmeg, and thyme. Season with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.

Spread the pancetta over the bread cubes, then layer the onions on top. Sprinkle grated Gruyère on next, and then pour the egg mixture over the entire thing.

Press down on the top gently, so that all of the bread cubes get soaked a bit with the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°F and take the casserole out of the fridge while the oven is preheating. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 50 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling and the top begins to brown. The baking time will be greatly dependent on the depth of dish you use. Check the interior with a knife; if it comes out clean the bread custard is baked through. (Cover with foil near the end of cooking if the top is already browned.)

Serve with a green salad, some asparagus, or just a tall Bloody Mary

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookie Candy Bars

Love crunchy caramel-peanut butter candy bars? Try these indulgent cookies to satisfy cravings

Peanut Butter Cookie Candy Bars


Cookie Base:

  • 1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® peanut butter cookie mix 
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon water 
  • 1 egg 


  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup 
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened 
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons water 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla 
  • Dash salt 
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar 

Caramel Layer:

  • 1 bag (14 oz) caramels, unwrapped 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted dry-roasted peanuts 


  • 1 bag (11.5 oz) milk chocolate chips (2 cups) 


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie base ingredients until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  2. In large bowl, beat all filling ingredients except powdered sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until well blended (filling will be thick). Press filling over cookie base. Refrigerate while preparing caramel layer.
  3. In 2-quart saucepan, heat caramels and 2 tablespoons water over low heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted. Stir in peanuts. Spread evenly over filling. Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until caramel layer is firm.
  4. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring once, until melted. Spread evenly over caramel layer. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until chocolate is set. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered at room temperature. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Smokies with Brown Sugar and Butter

Salty goodness from the bacon and sweetness from the brown sugar. The BEST of both worlds

Bacon Wrapped Smokies with Brown Sugar and Butter



  • 1 pound Bacon, Cut Into Thirds
  • 1 pound Smokies
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar


Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the bacon into thirds and wrap each smokie. Place all the wrapped smokies in a single layer in a baking dish. Then melt the stick of butter and then 1 cup of brown sugar and stir until mixed well. Pour the butter and brown sugar mixture on the smokies and bacon. Then take the other cup of brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over the smokies. Bake them for about 15-20 minutes and then turn the heat up to 400F for about 5 minutes or longer until the bacon becomes crispy.

I guarantee if you make these, they will be gone! I made them for a gathering and everyone just kept eating them, and eating them …

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Be warned: This stuff is addictive. Comfort food at its best!

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Serves: 4


  • 1 box Chicken-flavor Rice-A-Roni (6 Ounce Box)
  • 1 can Cream Of Mushroom Soup (10 Ounce Can)
  • 1 container Sour Cream, Low-fat (8 Ounce Size)
  • 1 whole Rotisserie Chicken
  • 1 container Durkee French-fried Onions (6 Ounce Can)


Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare Rice-A-Roni according to package directions. While that is cooking, shred/cut up the chicken (I always use a rotisserie chicken, but you could use leftover chicken or some cooked and shredded breasts, whatever), removing meat from bones.

When Rice-A-Roni is done, add the can of soup and the sour cream, and stir to combine. Add the chicken and mix together. Spread mixture into a sprayed baking dish (I use a 9-by-13-inch pan, but you can use what you like for how thick you want it to be) and bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven, cover with the french-friend onions and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and try not to eat the whole thing. Yum!

Camp Cornbread

A very easy cornbread recipe that the children and husbands will love. It's sweet, chewy and ready in a jiffy!

Camp Cornbread

makes 1 - 9x13 inch pan


  • 1 (8 ounce) package corn bread muffin mix
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (8 ounce) can canned cream corn
  • 1/2 cup white sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. Place the muffin mix a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and egg. Mix in the cream corn and sugar. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of pan comes out clean.

Sesame Noodles

This homemade sauce makes a sweet and spicy foil for linguine. The best sesame noodles I have every had!

Sesame Noodles

makes 8 servings


  • 1 (16 ounce) package linguine pasta
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili sauce
  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

  1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a serving bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, sugar, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Pour sauce over linguine, and toss to coat. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.