August 30, 2013

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Tiramisu Cupcakes with Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

Tiramisu Cupcakes--- When Life Gives You Sprinkles
What would I do without cupcakes?  What would the world do without cupcakes?  We would be forced to create full sized desserts, of course... and where's the fun in that?  Cupcakes are portable, sharable, customizable, easy to decorate and there are no utensils needed to eat them!  If I had to create full sized layer cakes for all of my baking adventures I would be stuck with a giant cake that would sit in my fridge with three slices taken out of it and then be thrown away.  With cupcakes, I can bring some to work, share with friends and keep just as many as I want to keep at home. 

Tiramisu Cupcakes--- When Life Gives You Sprinkles

Think about it... if I make a batch of 24 cupcakes, the decorating possibilities are ENDLESS!  I can put filling in some, I can top them with different frostings, different swirling or decorating techniques, and I could even top each of the two dozen cupcakes with a different variety of sprinkle!!  And yes, I do have that many sprinkles...

Cupcake Liner Obsession-- When Life Gives You Sprinkles.

Don't even get me started on cupcake liners either.... I'm sort of obsessed.  Does anyone else have this problem?  I'm at the store, planning to make a batch of cupcakes, and even though I have a bazillion liners at home already, if I see a pattern that I don't have yet, I HAVE to buy them.  Yes, I HAVE TO.  Sometimes I will even plan a new cupcake flavor or decorating style based on the new liners that I found.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that does this!

These Tiramisu cupcakes are definitely making it onto my permanent rotation of cupcakes creations.  Everyone at the event told me they loved them and the classic Tiramisu dessert translates perfectly into cupcake form, minus the lady fingers, which I don't think anyone missed. 

This cupcake is your basic white cupcake.  The center is removed, soaked in coffee liqueur syrup and stuffed back in with a little bit of frosting inside.  The topping is a Mascarpone Whipped Cream flavored with a little Kahlua as well.  In my recipe I've added an additional option for making a stabilized whipped cream in case you want to make these ahead of time. 

August 12, 2013

Roasted Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins

A Light Cornmeal Muffin Loaded with Sweet, Roasted Strawberries

Roasted Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins---
I'm so sorry that I have abandoned the blog for the last few weeks, but to be honest, I have abandoned my kitchen a little bit too.  Our old house does not have air conditioning, and although we've had a relatively mild summer so far, heating up the oven to 350, means the house feels about that temperature too.  It's a great excuse to grill outside most nights, but I have yet to develop any baking recipes for the grill... Hmmm... that gets the wheels spinning...
Roasted Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins---
The times that I have been able to suck it up and do some baking, I've really enjoyed using the fresh fruits of summer, and Fresh Strawberry Muffins can only be made better with ROASTED STRAWBERRIES.  I saw roasted strawberries all over the blogs and Instagram a few months ago and I thought I would try my hand at it.  And, man 'o man, these little suckers are good!  I had to resist snaking on all of them before they landed in my batter. 

Roasted Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins---

June 28, 2013

King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies

Only the Best Brownie Recipe... EVER!

King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies---
First of all huuuge shout out to King Arthur Flour (no, I am not in any way tied to KAF, just a fan of their products and blog).  It is very rare that I take a recipe that I find and don't adjust or add to it in any way... but this one warrants following the recipe EXACTLY.  These brownies are the best I've tried. 

In fact, I made this recipe twice already.  The first time I followed the recipe, but couldn't get ahold of Dutch-Process Cocoa from my local grocery store, so I used the plain ol' unsweetened stuff.  The brownies were good but they weren't great, but I could see the potential.  The chocolate flavor in my first batch was just too strong and acidic.  So that lead me on my hunt to find Dutch-Process Cocoa so that I could recreate the recipe EXACTLY.  I finally found it at Cost Plus World Market.  The brand is called Droste. 

The difference between Dutch-Process and other cocoa powders is that it has been treated with an alkalizing agent that modifies its color and gives it a milder taste.  It has a neutral pH and isn't as acidic as well.  But beware for those of you looking to switch to Dutch-process in your other recipes... You cannot use Dutch-process cocoa in recipes that use baking soda as the leavening agent because the baking soda relies on the acidity of the cocoa to activate it.  You must use it in recipes that call for baking powder (rather than baking soda) for leavening.

The unfortunate part of the dutching process is that it removes the antioxidants from the chocolate, sometimes up to 90% are removed in a heavy dutching process.  Oh well! I guess that means I will still have to eat my square of dark chocolate after I enjoy my brownies... darn!  But really, are we truly eating brownies for the antioxidants?  I don't think so. 

King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies--

Anyway, back to the brownies!  The second round went fantastic!  The brownies had an excellent chocolate flavor and by heating the butter and sugar together before adding it to the batter, it allows for the sugar to rise to the top during the baking process and gives you that awesome shiny, crackling top.  What's even better about these brownies?  You don't even have to get out the mixer!  Love it!

Fudge Brownies

From King Arthur Flour

Makes 24 brownies

1 cup unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached AP Flour
1 1/4 cups Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 baking pan with a light layer of baking spray. 

In a large bowl crack eggs and whisk in cocoa, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and vanilla.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter.  Add in sugar and stir to combine.  Heat the butter and sugar mixture for a couple more minutes on the stove just until it is hot (110-120 degrees, not bubbling).  You can do this process in the microwave as well.  The mixture will become shiny as you heat it.  This process is what helps the sugar distribute more and gives you that shiny, crackly top. 

Add the warm sugar/butter mixture into the egg/cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.  Add the flour and chocolate chips and stir until smooth.  If you want the chips to remain solid chunks in your brownie and not melt into the batter, allow the batter to cool for 10-20 minutes before stirring in the chips. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out with very moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow them to cool on a rack before cutting and serving. 


June 25, 2013

Chicken Avocado Soup

A Light Soup with Shredded Chicken, Avocado, Lime and Cilantro.

Chicken Avocado Soup with Lime and Cilantro--

I feel sorry for the people in the world that have that awful genetic trait that makes cilantro taste like dish soap. (It's true! I read about it!)  Even Julia Child had called cilantro's taste "offensive" and if she came across it she would "pick it out and throw it on the floor".  I also learned through my reading that the Oxford Companion to Food says that word coriander is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug and that may have come about because some likened the smell of the herb to bedbug-infested sheets.  GROSS!
Now I don't know about all that soap and crushed bug nonsense... I love me some cilantro! I love its bright, fresh scent and I keep a bunch on hand at all times in my kitchen. I can't imagine this Chicken Avocado Soup without it. 
To all of those cilantrophobes out there, I don't blame you, it's not your fault! Let's all blame it on the OR6A2 gene and be done with it!  But don't fret, there may be hope for you... if you want to join in on the cilantro party wagon, try crushing it up!  By crushing the leaves it allows the enzymes to gradually change the soapy-scented aldehyde into other substances without any aroma.  And what's more crushed than a pesto?  Many cilantro haters have found that they can tolerate a cilantro pesto and that has eased them into enjoying cilantro at least a little bit more. 
The addition to cilantro in this soup adds an herby freshness that accompanies the lime and avocado perfectly.  The recipe is simple and it's a great way to use leftover chicken or even one of those awesomely cheap roasted chickens you get from the grocery store.  I wouldn't skimp on the cotija cheese either (and not because it is one of my new favorite things), but because it adds the perfect salty bite to balance out the acid of the lime, but if you must, try adding a touch more salt to the broth. 

Chicken Avocado Soup with Lime and Cilantro--


Chicken Avocado Soup

Adapted from Skinny Taste
Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
5 cups chicken broth (I always use low-sodium)
2 cups shredded chicken (about 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups scallions, chopped
2 avocados, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chile powder or cayenne if you want to spice it up. 
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
To garnish:
limes, a couple wedges per person (I like a lot of lime)
sprinkle of cotija cheese
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of the scallions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Add tomato and cook for another minute.  Add chicken broth, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper.  Stir and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. 
In individual bowls, layer each with 1/2 cup shredded chicken (with a squeeze of lime), 1/2 an avocado, the remaining scallion and cilantro.  Ladle in about 1 cup of the broth and top with a sprinkle of cotija cheese.  Serve with lime wedges. 

June 4, 2013

Ginger Peach Teacakes

Peach Teacakes with a Ginger Liqueur Glaze, Ol' Sport!
ginger peach cakes cupcakes flowers

Which potluck item would be appropriate for a Great Gatsby themed 20's housewarming party?!  I racked my brain...  I knew I wanted to make sweets, and of course, cupcakes are always on the top of my mind.  I even went shopping for cupcake liners to get some inspiration.  Well, I did manage to find the cutest cupcake liners that were grey, black and yellow and super elegant. I thought I would be using those, but I made a last minute change and wanted to do something smaller and more bite sized for the party. So I landed on mini cakes, tiny, cute, teacakes. 

ginger peach cakes flowers

Now, I may be taking some liberties in calling them teacakes, because what really makes a teacake a teacake?  I typed that exact question into my search engine.  I got results for traditional English teacakes, which aren't very cute at all, more like a yeast-based bun with dried fruit.  The South will refer to a large, dense, cookie-like treat made with butter, flour, eggs, milk and sugar as a teacake. BUT, in the rest of the United States a teacake is usually a single-layered, lightly spiced cake, often made with buttermilk, topped with a glaze and sometimes they contain fruit.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a winner.  And by just doing a glaze on top, instead of frosting, gave me a chance to play around with my royal icing and piping techniques that I so rarely use outside of work. 

ginger peach cakes cupcakes flowers

May 30, 2013

Baked Eggs on Spinach with Brown Butter Breadcrumb Topping

Eggs Baked on a Bed of Spinach Topped With Addictive, Garlicky, Brown Butter Breadcrumbs.

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan

In my Sweet Potato Hash post I mentioned that my love for baked eggs started with a specific recipe that includes spinach, cheese and a breadcrumb topping that would taste good sprinkled on anything! Well here it is folks, my favorite breakfast!

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan
I got this recipe from How Sweet It Is and after the first time I made it, I was completely hooked! I totally flipped over the combination of egg, spinach, cheese and this garlicky, buttery breadcrumb topping that is TO DIE FOR. I'm telling you, you will sprinkle these on anything and everything!

You can adjust this recipe to fit your serving size very simply. I will give you basic amounts, that will serve about 4-6 people, but you can always add more or less to customize.

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan

The original recipe calls for Fontina cheese, and out of the 50 times I've made this (exaggeration, I know, but don't tempt me!) I've only used Fontina twice. Fontina is something that I don't normally keep on hand, so I have substituted Parmesan and Romano before and either way, it is sooo good!

spinach and eggseggs and spinach

May 23, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas

Baked Chicken Enchiladas. 

baked chicken enchiladas

WARNING! These are not your traditional enchiladas!  My co-worker even got a little offended when I called them that because she is all about authentic Mexican food.  She scolded me because my sauce had tomato sauce in it and I did not make it with dried chilies.  And according to her, I did not build my enchiladas correctly... Sorry Norma, but I don't care!  These "enchiladas" were SO GOOD!  And I have since found TONS of recipes online that use tomato sauce! 

baked Chicken Enchiladas mexican food

So the moral of the story is... Make food that you like to make and that tastes fabulous and no one should care what you call it! I will definitely be making these Chicken Enchiladas again very soon!  The other reason I liked this recipe from Pink Parsley was because the naked enchiladas are baked in the oven for a few minutes before adding the sauce over the top so the tortilla doesn't get too soggy and you have slightly crispy edges. 

baked Chicken Enchiladas mexican foodbaked Chicken Enchiladas mexican food

May 19, 2013

Handmade Gifts- Body Scrub

Lavender and Rose Salt Scrub and Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub.

lavender and rose and dreamsicle

Lots of new things going on around here lately! Mother's Day weekend was over 100 degrees and what did we decide to do?  Sod our front yard and go on a walking tour of old homes in Monrovia, of course!  We survived and as you can see from my photo I just HAD to use our new grass as a backdrop for my homemade body scrubs, which were my gift to my Momma on her special day. 

Each Mother's Day, the town I live in has a tour of old or historical homes.  It was something we used to do with my Grandma many, many years ago we decided to go again this year.  It's really amazing how much pocket windows, crown moulding, roll-up screens, built-in cabinets and picture rails can get me excited.  I guess I was destined to own an older home, and I was excited to see the potential beauty my 1917 Craftsman style house can have in a few years. 

As far as the body scrubs are concerned, they make one of the easiest homemade gifts and most of the ingredients some straight from your pantry at home.  I've made body scrubs with salt, sugar, or coffee.  I've heard that the coffee is good for cellulite, but I cannot atest to any such claims 1 ;) I've made scrubs with coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil.  Use mild smelling oils and try to avoid mineral oil, as it is not good for your skin and can clog your pores.  When it comes to the scents, one of the easiest ways to get great smelling, good for you scrubs is with essential oils.  Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores carry essential oils, I especially like peppermint essential oil.  I even grabbed some lavender from the spice and tea man at the Farmer's Market and picked some rose petals from my bush outside to create this salt scrub. 

May 16, 2013

Real Men Eat Quiche.

Ham, Cheddar, and Onion Quiche and Sun-Dried Tomato, Feta and Spinach Quiche.


I love preparing quiche for easy breakfasts and lunches.  I usually make two so that we can eat them throughout the week, whenever we choose.  It's great to pack a slice to take to work for lunch and we even eat them for dinner served with a simple salad.  Quiche is one of those recipes that you can really customize.  Use a basic custard recipe and add a couple cups of your favorite ingredients and you've got it made in the shade!  Leftovers always make the perfect ingredients for your quiche as well! 

When making quick quiches for the week I take a shortcut and use a store-bought pie crust.  My favorite is Pillsbury, but you can use any variety you choose.  When I've got the time and patience a homemade crust just makes it that much better!

May 4, 2013

Churro Cupcakes for Cinco de Mayo

Cinnamon Cupcakes Filled with Salted Dulce de Leche and Topped with a Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting and a Churro Tortilla Crisp.

cinnamon cupcakes with dulce de leche

Let me begin this post with saying that these cupcakes are sooo good!  You don't need to make them for Cinco de Mayo only, they are a big hit all year round!  The description of these treats may seem a little complicated, but I've created lots of shortcuts with disguises so that no one will ever know! Really the hardest part is trying not to eat all of the cupcake centers before you are done filling the batch with dulce de leche!

cinnamon cupcakes filled with dulce de leche

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Like many bakers, whether a professional or a home baker, we are all searching for that perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Well, look no further. I've found it! 

measuring ingredients cookies

This cookie is perfect for those that like their chocolate chip cookies thin and crispy, with lots of chips, a perfectly golden bottom, and a tiny salty bite that just makes everything taste better!  Unlike the other cookie recipes that all begin with you preheating your oven to 350, you bake these babies at a hot 425 degrees for a shorter amount of time. You must be very careful not to over cook these, they can be very finicky, but once you get it down, they come together so quickly.

April 19, 2013

Visiting the Claremont Farmer's Market

 local produce

Farmer's Market, Market Night, Street Fair.  Everyone has their own name for it, but visiting these local events is one of my favorite things to do, especially as the weather starts to warm up. 

I've been very lucky to have a Friday night event in my very own town that I frequent at least a couple times a month. The Monrovia Street Fair and Farmer's Market is one of my favorite places. I grew up hanging out there every week while my parents sold their crafts, and now I go to support the local vendors. They have a great selection of handmade gifts and jewelry, as well as a produce and food selection that rocks! I just can't get enough, so I am trying to branch out and visit other local markets in my area to discover new vendors and items that I've never seen before.

market flowers plants 
sweet fresh strawberries

April 18, 2013

Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Cookies

The Best Peanut Butter Cookies

peanut butter cookies

My man loves Peanut Butter Cookies!  He gets the prepackaged ones from 7-11 all the time and he just recently, unknowingly, bought a giant vegan peanut butter cookie.  Sorry vegans, but it just wasn't the same without the eggs and butter! :(

cream cheese peanut butter cookies

After this, I decided to make him a batch of fabulous cookies, but I didn't want to do a plain ol' PB cookie.  I tossed around the idea of either adding cream cheese or apples...  both options sounded so good, I thought I'd make the cream cheese ones now and save the apple PB cookies for apple season!

April 11, 2013

Sweet Potato Hash

Eggs Baked in Sweet Potato Hash with Chorizo, Sweet Caramelized Onions and Rosemary.

hash with eggs

Brunch is really my all-time favorite meal, both to eat and to prepare.  I love that you can mix savory and sweet, breakfast and lunch, and it is completely acceptable to be drinking Mimosas, spiked coffee and Bloody Marys.

hash ingredients

April 8, 2013

Chili with a Twist

Spicy Turkey Chili with Pumpkin

turkey chili

When I woke up and looked outside today we had a little bit of morning gloom.  Although there was no rain, I couldn't help but think of "April showers bring May flowers", and hoping we get a little more rain before Summer comes.  I love warming up my house by cooking something in the kitchen all day.  Slow cooked meals are some of our favorites, and I love being able to prepare the meal early and come home to a house that smells wonderful!

chili spices

I've always loved cooking chili in the slow cooker, and for the last few years have been trying to get my recipe just right.  Pretty early on we decided that we wanted it hot and spicy and made with turkey instead of beef.   About a year ago, I thought I had it just the way we liked it, until I discovered a chili recipe that called for pumpkin.  Pumpkin and chili?  How awesome did that sound!? I simply added the pumpkin to my regular chili recipe and it was fantastic!  I have added pumpkin to my chili ever since. 

pumpkin chili

April 2, 2013

The Boys Take Over! And I Bake...

Armenian Barbecue Feast and an Armenian Nutmeg Cake. 

bbq meat

Spending months and months making the inside of our new (old) house livable has been quite a task.  There are still many, many more projects that need to be done, but we have been somewhat ignoring the outside of our home.  Right now the front yard consists of a beautiful blooming tree with pink blossoms surrounded by... dirt.  Our backyard has three 100-year-old Oak trees and even more dirt, along with a pool who's vinyl liner is severely damaged and that is in extreme need of cleaning and chlorine.  But, it's all a work in progress.  I mean, we aren't millionaires! Baby steps, baby steps... At least we got the sprinklers installed last weekend! 

nutmeg cakehummus pita

March 29, 2013

Crab Cakes with Chimichurri

Crab Cakes with Chimichurri Sauce


It's been a stinky couple of days in our house lately.  No, not because of the crab cakes pictured above!  Our little pup, Scruffy, got sprayed by a skunk in the back yard!  We heard the commotion outside and quickly called him in, but it wasn't until he ran inside and started rubbing his face all over our dining room rug did we notice the two yellow spots on him.  The smell was soon to hit us a few seconds later... He was pretty traumatized, we all were, and our house smelled awful!  We quickly got him into the bath, opened all of our windows and googled how to cure the smell. 

We had two choices... tomato juice or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap.  The only tomato juice I had was a couple cans of expensive San Marzano tomatoes... so, sorry Scruff, the peroxide mixture it was!  We rinsed him in the mixture twice and bathed him in his regular shampoo about 5 times.  Poor thing already does not like the bath and he was in there for about an hour that night! After his bath, he recovered by curling up under his favorite blankey and just looking at us with sad eyes for the rest of the night.  The baths got most of the smell off of him, but it still lingers even a few days later. 

sprayed by a skunk

The house has had a lingering smell as well, but lucky enough, by the time I made these crab cakes for dinner two days later, the smell had pretty much dissipated.  The lovely smell of crab cakes replaced it!

crab cake mix

March 27, 2013

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese

The sun is out, the weather is warming, Spring is here!  All I can think of now is, "I hope we can save enough money to get the air conditioner installed in the house before it gets too hot".  My A/C just went out in my car this week too and they quoted me $998!  House? Car? House? Car? I just hope Mother Nature gives me another week or two of beautiful 72 degree temperatures, so that we can mill through our options a little longer.  But one way or another, looking to the future, it's going to be HOT!

soup and sandwich

tomato soup grilled cheese

Maybe subconsciously I am hoping for cool, drizzly, soup weather so that I can keep my air conditioner conundrum on the back burner for a little while longer... so that is what's on the menu tonight! SOUP!

March 25, 2013

Garlic Rosemary Bread

A Simple Bread Recipe That is Baked in a Dutch Oven.

Can one live on only bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic? If anyone out there is doing a scientific study on this, I'd like to sign up!  Bread and butter, sandwiches, french toast, paninis, you name it---  I love bread. 

rosemary garlic bread

I've been baking for a long time now, and I have NEVER made more than a banana bread.  I don't really know why, but something about using yeast and having to knead are intimidating to me.  I know that it really is not that scary or hard, but I have always stayed away. 

baking bread ingredients
Big shoutout to one of the besties, Katy, and her boyfriend Kyle for making me this cute sign! Visit their Etsy shop here.

I knew for my first bread recipe I wanted something simple... something I could use as a good base to experiment with flavors rather than with techniques.  I settled on this recipe for crusty bread specifically because it seemed easy enough and because the bread is baked in a Dutch oven. My mom got be a beautiful Dutch oven for Christmas and I've been cooking all I can in it.  I don't know how I survived without one for so long!

March 24, 2013

Pasta with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Spaghetti with Chicken, Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Parmesan.

This is one of my go-to pasta dinners.  It has all of my favorite things and is really simple to throw together, and something that I can put together in about 30 minutes is really important to me. 

spinach chicken pasta

Very often my man works until 10 o'clock at night and has a 35 minute drive home.  I, personally, would hate having to eat reheated food alone every night for dinner, so I try my best to have a hot meal ready for him so that we can eat together.  So about 4 times a week we eat dinner very late, last night was no exception...


One of the struggles I am running into these days is photographing my food so late when there is no natural light. But I'm TRYING! I by no means am a photographer, I like to think that if I'm lucky enough to get a really good shot, it is all because of my iPhone or iPad and fiddling just right with Snapseed.  I don't really know what I'm doing.  And I'm sure that if my new neighbors ever looked into our kitchen at night they would think that a crazy lady moved in.  They would catch a glimpse of my makeshift lighting set-up, which includes an office floor lamp that has an adjustable light and another lamp that is missing its shade that I am constantly moving around.  They probably always wonder why I'm standing on a step stool with an iPad in the middle of my kitchen in the middle of the night. 

fresh spinach