Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cherry Almond Cream Cheese Danish Braid

I loved going to my OB appointments.  One, my OB was the nicest and most professional doctor I have ever met.  Two, the hospital offered fresh pastries every single time we went.  So, after my appointments, Binks and I would grab a coffee and pastry downstairs.    Luckily, my appointments became more frequent towards the end of my pregnancy.

After I delivered, I was very sad that I wouldn’t see my OB anymore.  He shared the most important part of my life with us and then, just like that, he was gone.  I remember wishing he could be Isaiah’s pediatrician.  Not possible.

After my delivery, holding that danish, I surprised myself at how much I would miss these danishes.  Paired with a dark roast coffee, the flaky pastry paired with sweet cherries and a hint of almond became a highlight to the day.  I wished I could repeat this experience as often as I wanted.  Quite possible.

Turns out, as with most things, the homemade version is way better.  Using fresh cherries and controlling the sugar, you can get a result that highlights the fresh cherries without being overly sweet.  Feel free to use fresh cherries, but I used frozen cherries because I had it on hand.

Cherry Almond Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Serves 4-6

 Ingredients:

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed

Cream cheese filling:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Cherry filling:

  • 2 cups of frozen or fresh cherries (keep juice if frozen)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar*
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp milk, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare cream cheese filling:  Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and almond extract.  Set aside.
  3. Prepare cherry filling:  In a saucepan, over medium heat, add cherries, water, juice, sugar, and cornstarch, and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat to low and stir in almond extract.  Mix over low heat until  the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and cool.
  4. Roll puff pastry into a thin 12 x 12 square.  I roll to about 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Evenly spread cream cheese mixture down the middle third of the pastry.  Place cherry filling on top.
  6. Using a pizza cutter, cut the outer third edges diagonally, spaced about an inch apart.  Then, criss-cross the cut edges to form  braid.
  7. Place onto parchment paper and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes., rotate halfway during baking.
  8. While baking prepare the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth.  Thin the glaze to your desired consistency.  Brush the glaze onto the danish while it’s still hot.
  9. Serve warm.

4 Comments

Filed under baking, Breakfast

Stuffed Mushrooms [ & Happy Birthday]

It’s my birthday today.  Not just any birthday.  I’m officially 30.  Big one right?  I find myself not caring.  I would say that it’s because I’m too busy with a baby and business to care, but I don’t think that’s quite it.  I think it’s denial.  As if now that I’m starting my 30s, I feel a sense of filing away my 20s and accepting all that’s happened in the file as the past.  And, that’s a lot of stuff .  Namely, all that revolves around my dad.  It’s hard to file away his passing as something that has happened.  While others around me make a deal about my birthday, the one thing that stands out is that this year, my dad will not call me to say “happy birthday.”  Although seemingly minute, birthdays are the one thing we grew up caring about.  My dad would make it a point – no matter where we were in life – to always call on our birthdays.  He didn’t care much for cards or presents (bummer when we were kids!), but the words were said.  And, genuinely so.  I fully intend on carrying this tradition forward.

These stuffed mushrooms were my dad’s favorite.  People love them, but I loved that my dad loved them.  He did not like cheese or cheese-y dishes.  (One of the many ways we are different.)  However, my stuffed mushrooms were the exception.  Over time, I have perfected these to be a family favorite.  I would venture to say that this recipe is sorta my thang.  I make these mushrooms at all get-togethers where there are a manageable amount of people.  What I mean by that is a feed-able amount of people.  I wanted to make these at my baby shower, but the amount of people (50!) would not have made this dish feasible.  Although the recipe creates 12 mushrooms, I expect everyone to eat at least 3.  Case and point – I made 12 for a group of 4 and we had no left overs.  While I stand behind all the recipes I post, this one is extra special.  It’s out-of-this-world delicious and surrounded by meaningful memories.  And, those kind of memories are not so easily forgotten.

Stuffed Mushrooms

– makes 12 mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided in half
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided in half (or fresh bread crumbs)

Directions:

  1. Wash and remove the stems from the mushrooms.  Finely dice the mushroom stems.  Set aside.
  2. Heat pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil and heat.  Add the shallots, garlic and mushroom stems to the pan, and cook until the mixture is generally dry.  You want the moisture from the mushrooms to evaporate.
  3. Add black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Mix for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove from the heat.
  4. Once removed from the heat, add the cream cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup), and half of the Panko bread crumbs (1/4 cup).  Stir until everything is incorporated and combined.
  5. Pipe into the mushrooms.  Arrange mushrooms on a baking tray.  You can refrigerate or freeze the mushrooms at this point for later use at this point.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over mushrooms.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned.

6 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, garlic, Life, Vegetarian

Pâte à Choux and Cream Puffs

I wasn’t kidding when I said I have discovered pastry cream.  Not quite like Gore discovered the internet, but I am obsessed.  Lately, I have been looking for reasons to make it again.  With next door neighbors coming over for a baby date, I needed a fairly easy and quick tea-time recipe to whip up.  I have put aside making cream puffs for fear that I will mess up a seemingly delicate pâte à choux  batter.  However, I have found a recipe that comes together effortlessly.

Pâte a choux [pronounced: paht-ah-shoo] comes together using ingredients you likely have on hand.  Used for either savory or sweet purposes, you really get creative with what you do with this dough.  The recipe below addresses how to make the dough for a sweet preparation.  If you wanted to make gougeres or something savory, try adding some grated cheese to the dough for a different take on a great standard recipe.

I made the pastry cream ahead of time, adding whipped cream to the mixture to give it a more pudding and pipeable consistency.  To add to the texture variety of this treat, I topped it with homemade chocolate shell.  Follow with me if you will.  At first bite, you have the crunch, followed by soft almost-flaky dough and finished with a velvety sweet pastry cream.  What is not to love?

Pâte à Choux

adapted from Steamy Kitchen via Michael Ruhlman

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a large pan, bring the water and butter to a boil.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, add in the flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla,  and stir in one direction quickly.  It should come together like a ball.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer.  Start the mixer on medium and add all the eggs to the mixture and keep it beating until the dough becomes tacky and starts sticking to the bowl of the mixer.
  5. Here you can either (1) put everything in a piping bag and pipe small balls of dough or (2) use a cookie scoop.
  6. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and cook for 18-30 minutes, depending on the  size of your puffs.
  7. Let cool a bit and then fill with pastry cream (recipe below).

Pastry Filling

adapted from my pastry cream recipe

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In your electric mixer, whip up the cream until it forms soft peaks.
  2. Add the pastry cream to the whipped cream and combine until you reach a pudding consistency.
  3. Pipe using a piping bag.

 

11 Comments

Filed under Desserts, Frostings & Fillings, Pastries, Uncategorized

Layered Mediterranean Dip

I adore Mediterranean food.  I love it just short of formally announcing that I may love it more than Indian food.  Offering fresh, light and bold flavors, the Mediterranean flavor profile is up my culinary alley.  We make Mediterranean food quite often at home, including falafel and hummus.  Homemade pita chips and hummus often serve as a snack-turned-into-dinner after a late work day.  This time, I wanted to jazz up our usual with added texture and flavor.  I had bookmarked this recipe since the first day I saw it.  With this recipe, it’s either go bold or go home.

Preparing this dish could not have been easier.  However, from start to finish, this recipe took me two hours.  Thirty minutes tops to arrange and clean up the actual dish.  However, as I was going to grab the olive oil for the final drizzle, my slippery fingers dropped my beautiful brand new bottle of the good stuff.  Bottle and oil all over my kitchen floor.  I spent an hour mopping up everything and another thirty minutes combing the floor for scraps of glass.  Bright side: I now have a clean kitchen floor.  After wrapping up the cleaning, sitting down to eat was well worth it.  Flavor upon fresh flavor, this dip had the perfect combination of crunch, creamy, tang and bite.  The toppings can be varied to your preference and tastes.

Layered Mediterranean Dip

adapted from Tasty Kitchen via Perry’s Plate

Ingredients:

  • Cilantro Pesto
  • Hummus
  • Red onions, finely diced
  • Cucumbers, peeled and finely diced
  • Tomatoes, finely diced
  • Banana peppers, diced
  • Kalamata olives, diced
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

On your serving platter, spread a layer of hummus.  To the hummus, spread the cilantro pesto.  Add red onions, cucumbers tomato peppers, banana peppers, kalamata olives, and feta cheese evenly.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Serve with pita chips.

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Donut Muffins

In our house, Sunday mornings typically consist of late mornings and donuts.  Since the baby, the first on that list has become a distant memory.  Thank goodness for the sweet glazed treats to make up for sleep deprivation.  This week, I couldn’t quite wait until Sunday.  With a guest making a quick visit to see the baby, a bite-sized treat that boasts a semblance to donuts was on the menu.

First, this is a quick and easy recipe.  This recipe came together so fast that I actually made it while baby-wearing.  I wanted to try this recipe actually, but I wanted to go with the recipe used here with fewer ingredients and a shorter preparation time.

Second, this is a keeper.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.  Neither could my guest – or Binks – who ate all 24 pieces.  I was able to get my hands on 5 of them.  These donut muffins have a denser crumb than your actual yeast donuts, but still remain light and fluffy.  So light that you can actually grab and pop a lot of these in your mouth before realizing that you’ve made it through half the batch.  Next time, I’m going to double the recipe in the hopes to avoid that who’s-going-to-take-the-last-piece look I saw Binks give our guest.

Donut Muffins

– yields 24 mini muffins
– adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease 24 mini-muffin cups.
  2. Mix together the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and milk, and stir to combine.
  4. Mix in the baking powder and flour.  Don’t over mix.  Just mix to incorporate all ingredients.
  5. Fill each muffin cup halfway.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. While the muffins are baking, mix the sugar and cinnamon in one bowl.  Set up the bowl of melted butter next to it.
  8. Once the muffins are done, remove from the oven and dip each muffin in the melted butter.  Once in the butter, mix in the cinnamon sugar to coat.  Repeat with remaining muffins.

5 Comments

Filed under baking, Muffins

Deviled Eggs

I only eat deviled eggs two times a year.  Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.  My mother in law prepares it for Thanksgiving lunch and I prepare it for July 4th.  Usually prepared for a potluck, picnic, or barbecue, deviled eggs are a great appetizer for the summer.  And, in the south, deviled eggs are somewhat of a staple at get-togethers.

Deviled eggs recipes are not hard to find.  It really all comes down to preference.  Some people prefer creamy and no additions, whereas others, like me, prefer a crunch.  I also prefer a bit of tang and kick.  When do I not prefer a kick?

While I prefer a crunch, I like all the crunchy items, pickles and scallions, minced down so that it doesn’t overwhelm the creaminess.  Usually I find myself just using the same ingredients in different amounts until I get the taste that I want.  I consider this somewhat of my basic recipe, but can be easily varied to your specifications.  However, I have to say that having tried it with and without, and finishing it off with smoky paprika is a must.

Now, the problem really comes down to serving size.  While on a given day, one egg is my limit, with deviled eggs, I usually find myself eating more than my fair share.

Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp pickles, minced
  • 1 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp black ground pepper
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce (or other hot sauce of your preference)
  • Paprika, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Cut each egg in half lengthwise.  Remove the yolks and place in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Mash the yolks with a fork.
  3. Add mayo, pickles, shallots, mustard, salt, pepper and Tabasco to the yolks.  Add more salt and/or pepper based on your preference.
  4. Fill egg white ‘shell’s with the yolk filling.
  5. Sprinkle with paprika.
  6. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Overnight Oats

I’m not a fan of summer.  I really do hate the heat.  I’m not really living in the best city for this.  So, when it comes to food, I do not like to incorporate more heat into my life whenever I can help it.  For instance, I’ll switch from hot coffee to iced coffee.  Soups to salads.  Hot oatmeal to overnight oats.  I’m not one to brag about oatmeal, and Binks definitely won’t brag or say anything nice about oatmeal, but overnight oats is a favorite of mine and tolerated by Binks.  That’s as high a compliment oatmeal can get from my husband.

Considering that this dish is both nutritious and easy to assemble, overnight oats is hands-down a go-to breakfast in this house.  It’s easy to grab in the morning, while taking care of a busy baby.  While I have made overnight oats without yogurt and just milk, I highly recommend using yogurt as it brings the oats to a higher level of richness and flavor.  I like my oatmeal just a little thicker than drinkable yogurt, but not so set like a custard.  Add and layer with your favorite toppings.  Bananas are a must for me for sweetness.  What are your favorite toppings?

Overnight Oats

– adapted from Katheats
– Yields about 3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk (any type of milk you want)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt)*
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (honey, sugar, brown sugar, Stevia, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve cold the next morning.  Top with your desired garnishes.
*If you use unsweetened yogurt, feel free to add more sweetener with a tsp of vanilla extract.

7 Comments

Filed under Breakfast, Health, Vegetarian

Nutella Stuffed Sugar Cookies

Nope.  Not an ordinary sugar cookie.  I’m all about food surprises.  Talk about being given an unassuming sugar cookie only to bite in to find this.

My sister came over and she wanted to bake.  As if I would say no.  My sister does whatever she can to incorporate Nutella or Biscoff to anything and everything she eats.  No joke.  I know because she’s polished of several Biscoff and Nutella jars in my house before I had the chance to get to them.  She also loves sugar cookies – more than chocolate chip cookies – she’s one of those.

We got our bake on.  And we got creative.  My sister did this.  Obviously.

I wouldn’t recommend topping with Nutella unless you intend to serve and eat right away because the Nutella doesn’t necessary ‘set’.  These cookies were served and eaten right away.

Nutella Stuffed Sugar Cookies
– adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

Ingredients:

 Directions:

  1. Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out spoonfuls of Nutella onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Prepare your sugar cookie dough.
  4. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out one piece of dough into your hand.  Split the dough in half and flatten both halves.  Place a frozen Nutella piece in the middle of one piece.  Top that with the other flattened piece.  Seal the edges with your fingers.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Place each dough two inches apart.
  5. Bake 10 minutes, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking.  Remove from the oven after 10 minutes or until edges are golden.  Cool in baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and cool on a cookie rack.  Feel free to eat them warm, as well.

7 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Desserts

Ice Cream Cupcakes

We celebrated Binks’ birthday this past weekend.  The usual is to get an ice cream cake for the whole family.  The usual that is until I came into the picture.  Binks is a fan of cupcakes.  Mostly because he can grab a piece easier than having to cut from a bigger cake.  Obviously my husband cares about the speed in which he obtains his cake.  And while he is definitely not a foodie, he is very serious about his cake…and for birthdays…ice cream cake.

These cupcakes are so easy to assemble that I really don’t think this quite classifies as a recipe but rather, a how-to.  You can use your favorite cake, favorite ice cream and top it to your heart’s content.  Next time, I might try to incorporate homemade chocolate shell and whipped cream.  It’s perfect for summer birthdays or a general summer treat altogether.  As a person that eats one sweet thing everyday, this would have been perfect but for the fact that we had none left.  You can definitely make these a day or two ahead, which cuts down prep time substantially and allows you more time to spend with the birthday boy.

Ice Cream Cupcakes
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
– yields  approximately 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite cake batter – I used half of my chocolate cake from here
  • Your favorite ice cream – I used Snickers ice cream (Binks’ favorite)
  • Chocolate ganache – optional
  • Sprinkles – optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line cupcake tins with foil liners.  Scoop a tablespoon of cake batter into each liner.  You don’t want to use any more than a tablespoon.  Bake for 8 minutes (make sure it passes the toothpick test).  It should be done by then.
  2. Once done, remove and cool to room temperature.  If your cupcakes domed, then flatten by cutting the top with a knife.  Place in freezer for 30 minutes.  When you put the cake in the freezer, remove the ice cream.  You want the ice cream to be softened to be able to spread.
  3. Take the cake out of the freezer and using a spoon, spoon the ice cream over the cake and smooth out the top.
  4. Place the filled cupcakes back in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
  5. If you are topping with ganache, remove from freezer and add ganache and sprinkles, if using.
  6. Place back in freezer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the freezer only before serving as it will melt quickly.  The foil helps keeps the ice cream colder longer.

8 Comments

Filed under Cupcake, Desserts

Fresh Berry Cream Pie

Happy Fourth of July! This is a very important time for me. Are you ready? Pastry cream. Have you had it? I thought I had. I have only now just discovered it. I have tasted several pastries and tarts from bakeries, that have just left me wondering why it was any different from vanilla pudding. It’s better. How much better? So good that I (1) considered eating the whole bowl, (2) wanted to slather myself with it like lotion, and (3) paired it with a buttery crust and decorate it with fresh berries.

Don’t judge my excitement. When you discover, albeit later than almost everyone in this nation, something so wonderful, I could shout it from the rooftops – or at least from my kitchen. Glorious velvety cream that should never be given a supporting role. Rather, use it as a filling for a flaky butter pie crust that is light enough to complement the vanilla cream and slightly tart berries.

I love pies on Fourth of July, and this cream based pie is a nice stunning alternative to the usual, and a great way to take advantage of the summer berries. Served cold, it’s quite refreshing for the Texas and/or July heat, as well.

Fresh Berry Cream Pie
dough adapted from Joy the Baker; pastry cream adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 and 1/4 cup cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, cold

Pastry Cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Toppings:

  • Fresh blueberries
  • Fresh strawberries, cut in half
  • Apricot or apple jelly, for glazing
Directions:

  1. To make pie crust: Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture until its coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and mix Turn out onto a clean surface and knead until the dough comes together. Once the dough comes together, gather into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least and hour. At this point, preheat your oven to 350F. After chilling, roll out the dough to a 12-inch diameter circle. Drape onto your pie dish. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 30 minutes. After, remove plastic wrap, place parchment paper/aluminum foil on top and add pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool with the pie weights. Remove pie weights and parchment/foil. Poke holes on the bottom with a fork. Bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  2. To make pastry cream: In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, stir together milk and 1/3 cup sugar and bring to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Add the cornstarch and sugar and thoroughly combine. When the milk is boiling, take about a 1/2 cup of the boiling mixture and add it slowly to the egg mix, whisking constantly. You do not want the eggs to cook or the mixture to curdle, so whisk vigorously. Add the mixture into the boiling milk and continue to whisk until the mixture boils. Once the mix boils, turn off the stove and move off the heat. Now, stir in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated. Pour into a heat-safe container, cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the cream as to avoid a skin forming, and chill in the refrigerator until cool. If you leave it in the fridge for too long, it will be gelatinous. If so, just beat it again with the mixer and it will come back to form.
  3. To assemble the tart: Spread the pastry cream on the cooled pie crust evenly. Decorate with the berries as desired. Heat the jelly in the microwave and using a pastry brush, slightly brush the fruit with the jam for a shine.

8 Comments

Filed under baking, Desserts, Frostings & Fillings, Pie, Uncategorized