Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cornbread Sticks

I have to tell you how excited I am!  I finally found a vintage cast iron cornbread pan!

Let me tell you the backstory.

My mom used to have one.  I know this because I remember how much she hated it.  Personally, as a kid, I thought it was a lot of fun to eat cornbread that was shaped like an ear of corn.  I couldn't understand her emotional reaction to a pan.  But, I was a kid, and I moved on and didn't think that much more about it.

Until I became an adult.  A cooking, make-most-things-from-scratch adult.  And suddenly, the urge to bake cornbread sticks hit me.

So, I call my mother-in-law, who lives right behind me.  Like, "I can see your house from my kitchen" behind me.  In exchange for borrowing her equipment and ingredients on pretty frequent occasions, I often rescue her and my father-in-law from TV dinners.  It's a good setup.

But, she didn't have one of these cast iron pans that I desperately wanted to borrow.  She used to.  But, no longer.

My mom lives 3 miles away from me, which is barely any distance at all, unless you want to borrow her pan and you wanted it in the oven 5 minutes ago.  But I call anyway, for next time.

She didn't have hers anymore either.

What in the world is going on with my mothers???

Now, I refuse to make a special trip to Cracker Barrel to buy one of these pans, and furthermore, I refuse to spend 30 bucks on one.  Pass.

But the culinary stars aligned on my recent vacation to the Outer Banks.  My sister-in-law and I left the napping children behind with the napping mother-in-law at the beach house and went thrift store shopping.  (And are there culinary stars??  Hmmmm....)

Totally my new kind of vacation souvenir shopping.  Totally.

And what was laying there on the bottom shelf immediately when I walked in the door?

A cast iron cornbread stick pan.  Vintage.  $8.95.

No lie.

My heart started racing and my palms began sweating with excitement.  It would come home with me.

Wondering about the actual recipe, are you?  Oh, yes.  Wonderful.  Delicious.  Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside.  Just like a cornbread stick baked in a vintage cast iron pan should taste like.

Cornbread Sticks
Slightly adapted from Leite's Culinaria

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive, but prefer the lighter flavor of canola)
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fine-grind stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (add 1/2 tbl. of white vinegar to regular milk as a substitute)
1 large egg, lightly beaten


Position the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 425ºF.

In a small heatproof bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Use a pastry brush to coat each corn stick pan well generously with the butter. Place the corn stick pan in the oven to heat while you mix the batter.  (Adding the batter to a heated pan will prevent the cornbread from sticking).

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk, egg, and the oil and use a large spoon to stir the batter slowly (I used my stand mixer), just until the ingredients are combined. Batter might be a bit lumpy if stirring by hand.

Remove the corn stick pan from the oven and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each well. The batter should fill the well to the rim.

Bake the corn sticks until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and tops are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.  Let the corn sticks cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes (but no longer than that).

Use a small, sharp knife to loosen the edges of the corn sticks and carefully transfer the sticks from the pan to the rack.  Serve warm.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Happy Birthday, El Hub!

When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday meal (celebrated a couple days after his birthday), he predictably chose pasta and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I had visions of all the various flavor combinations of cupcakes I've "pinned" to try (yes, I've joined Pinterest--completely addicting!)  But he wanted to keep it simple.

Actually, it was a challenge for me to find a good-sounding chocolate cake since I'm really not a good judge of chocolate.  However, I have been known to eat my fair share of the boxed versions of devil's food cake, so when I found this recipe, I stopped looking.  Making a cake from scratch is no harder than making cupcakes from scratch, and I found myself not really relying on the recipe for the order of ingredients, but using it just for the measurements.  I guess all my "practicing" is starting to pay off!  I have never officially made ganache before, and I was a bit skeptical of adding the liquid to the chocolate (usually that results in my chocolate seizing up, which in turn results in a culinary temper tantrum, if you know what I mean!).  But this worked!  Score!

So, Happy Birthday, dear hubby!  I love you bunches!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Adapted from David Lebovitz

9 tbl. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. good quality cinnamon
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup strong coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and dust with flour.

Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Scrap down sides of bowl as needed.

Mix together the coffee, vanilla extract and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee mixture. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Ganache Frosting:
10 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place a heatproof glass bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Add the chopped chocolate and milk and heat until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.  Off heat; remove bowl from pan and whisk in sliced butter until completely melted.  Set aside until cooled to room temperature.

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together cream, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until stiff peaks form and cream looks creamy.

To Frost Cake:
Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cakes; turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Place one cake onto desired cake plate (for serving) and top with a good amount of frosting.  Layer an even amount of whipped cream over the ganache.  Place second cake on top and spread icing over top and sides of cake.  Accent top of cake with any leftover whipped cream, if desired.  Cover with a cake dome until ready to serve.

Cake is best when served the same day it is baked, but will keep nicely at room temperature under a cake dome.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Italian Zucchini Boats

Thank goodness for summer-fresh zucchini!  Last year, my dad's garden didn't really produce the expected bounty, which in turn meant that I didn't cook all the inspiring zucchini dishes that I had wanted to.  However, already this season, he has set out a roadside wagon full of his garden's harvest, with many more zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers still coming on.

One word:  Yippee!

While we were gone on vacation to the Outer Banks last week, my mom did some quick grocery shopping for me and stocked my cereal shelf in my pantry and put some fresh milk in my fridge.  She also brought over some zucchini and other garden-fresh lovelies.  She was so thoughtful, and it has been nice to not have to rush off to the grocery store before bags are unpacked and laundry is washed.

So, yesterday, when I was at the pool with the kids, I began to contemplate what to make for dinner.  It was only natural to start with zucchini.  Which led me to suggest to my 8-year-old zucchini boats (he loves them!).  Suddenly, Italian zucchini boats floated across my imagination; my tastebuds concurred.

It was fun to pull this together, using only what I had in the house.  I had planned on using tomato paste, but alas, I had none.  I can't believe that I forgot to add garlic, but the addition of the tomato pesto made up for it.

Not only is this blog post for you because I love to share, but it is also for me, because I am pretty sure I am making these again...soon!

Italian Zucchini Boats
A Karla Original

1 large zucchini,
olive oil, for drizzling
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef, browned, crumbled, and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 of an onion, diced
2 tbl. prepared sun-dried tomato pesto (found in the pasta sauce section of your grocery)
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbl. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 generous cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbl. shredded Parmesan cheese
6 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

Preheat oven to 350.

Slice zucchini lengthwise in half, discarding ends.  Using a spoon, scoop out seeds, forming a channel down the length of the zucchini.  Place on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season lightly with kosher salt.  Turned oiled zucchini open side down on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until fork tender.  Remove from oven to fill.

Meanwhile, lightly drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet.  Add ground beef and cook over medium heat until browned; crumble.  Season with kosher salt and pepper.  Drain off excess liquid.  Return to heat and add diced tomatoes, onion and pesto.  Cook until onions are tender and liquid has evaporated.  Add the grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Mix together then off the heat.

Turn over zucchini, open side facing up.  Using a spoon, scoop ground beef filling generously into the cooked zucchini.  Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove and garnish with sliced basil leaves.  Serve immediately.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cherry Limeade Cupcakes

I think I've had an epiphany.

I actually am pretty sure.

This leads me to have to make a confession.  To you.  But most of all, to myself.

I am addictively {is that even a word?!} in love with cupcakes.

The proof?  Two different cupcake recipes in the same weekend.

{Gasp!}  'Tis true...

One for a party, and one just because I just wanted to have a particular flavor of cupcakes.   But I wanted to make a different flavor for the party.

So, on the same weekend, back-to-back days, I made both kinds.  And I ate both kinds.  I have zero guilt and zero shame.  Both varieties were delicious.

But these cupcakes....well, not only are the beautiful, but they are fabulous.  Nice and compact crumb, light and airy texture, sweet at the front of your mouth and tart at the back.  Wonderful....

El Hub thinks that cupcakes are a lot of work (as if he even helps make them, gimme a break!).  I have come to the firm conclusion that they are fun.  And delicious.  And cute.  Way cuter than cake.

Allow me to share with you some cupcake love....  Mmmmmm.......

Cherry Limeade Cupcakes
Source:  goodLife {eats}

2 1/4 c cake flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c milk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 c sugar
zest of 3 limes
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lime zest in a mixer bowl and mix until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is mixed well, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Continue mixing for 2 minutes.  
Divide the batter between 18-24 cupcakes, filling each about 1/2 full. 
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch. Transfer the cupcakes cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes. Frost and decorate after fully cooled.

Cherry Frosting
3 3/4 cups confectioner’s’ sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 Tbs maraschino cherry juice
red food coloring (optional)
Combine the confectioner’s’ sugar, butter and maraschino cherry juice in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth. Add more maraschino cherry juice as needed to achieve desired texture. Add red food coloring if desired.
Frost cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lime slices and maraschino cherries, if desired.  (As usual, I used a 1M tip on my frosting bag).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Citrus Chicken and Pepper Kebabs

There is something intrinsically "summer" about kebabs.  What is it?  I'm not sure I've figured it out.  Meat and veggies on a stick just shout fun, summer food that is as tantalizing to the tastebuds as it is nourishing to the stomach.  I used to think kebabs were a bit fussy....I figured it was way easier to slap chicken strips on the the grill and not mess with the skewers.  And in a way, I still think that.  But kebabs are fun.  No doubt about it.  They can stretch a couple pieces of meat to feed a family, yet, there is something absolutely addicting about them that you better make sure you prep more than enough.  Ah, the irony....


These kebabs are fabulously fresh and the chicken is perfectly tender.  Win-win.

Citrus Chicken and Pepper Kebabs
Source:  goodLife {eats}

juice and zest of 1 lime
juice of 2 lemons (and the zest of 1)
juice of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (I used sweet mint from my deck garden!)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, excess fat trimmed off
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper

In a medium sized bowl, combine the lime juice, lime zest, lemon juice, lemon zest, orange juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and mint.  Whisk to combine.

Cut chicken breast into 1 1/2 inch chunks. Toss the chicken in the marinade and marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Meanwhile, if using bamboo skewers for the kebabs, soak them in water for at least an hour to avoid burning during grilling. Otherwise, use metal skewers.

Cut the peppers into large chunks, about 1 1/2 to 2 inch wedges. Assemble the kebabs by skewering the peppers together, and the chicken together.  I have found that, while the veggies and meat combined looks beautiful, it is much more practical to skewer them separately to cook them each according to their doneness.

Grill over high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. Chicken is done when juices run clear and a thermometer reaches 165 degrees F.  Rotate skewers of chicken and peppers often to cook evenly.

Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 3-5 minutes on a plate gently tented with foil.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grilled Watermelon Salad

I saw this recipe on a blog and I was intrigued by it.  I bookmarked it and one night, came back to it.  I am not a huge watermelon fan, but this summer so far, they have been fairly inexpensive at the grocery store and my kids have been devouring it, so I keep buying it.  However, I am completely open to trying new things with watermelon and grilling it intrigued me.

I want you to know that I debated posting this--I can't honestly say that I loved it.  However, I am still intrigued enough by it to try it again, only differently.  I wasn't going to post it, but then I kept seeing variations on several blogs, so I figured I would jump on this bandwagon.   I will share with you how I did it, so that the "recipe" matches the photo, but I will tell you that next time I will completely omit the salt and instead lightly drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the grilled fruit.  I might even use a sweeter cheese like soft goat cheese instead of the tangy feta.  I'm still in favor of the mint, seeing as I have a whole pot of it in my little herb garden on my deck.  (By the way, how many of you out there salt your watermelon or cantaloupe?  My dear little late grandma did it all the time at the lake when I was a kid--it is something that I've never really caught onto, but I love the memory it brings of my grandma just the same!).

Here's a challenge:  when you make this, either as is or tweaked and adapted, leave a comment telling the rest of us what you did, how you liked it, and how you might change it up the next go-around.  Thanks!  :)

Grilled Watermelon Salad
Source:  Giusto Gusto

{there are no real measurements here....just eyeball it according to your preference}

several slices of watermelon, rinds removed, cut into triangles
olive oil
feta cheese
fresh mint leaves, cut chiffonade-style
salt, optional (I would omit)

Heat the grill over high heat.  Let the grill get nice and hot.  Place watermelon slices on hot grill and let it get a good sear before turning.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Turn once, and grill a couple more minutes, until you have nice dark grill marks on the fruit.  Remove to a serving platter with a rim (the melon is going to release a lot of juice).

Once on the serving platter, top with salt, feta, and mint leaves.  The fruit will release its juices, and pooling on the platter.  It will almost take on a balsamic-like flavor.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blueberry Boy Bait

I may have mentioned it before, but my little daughter is a sugar-freak.  I mean, she and sugar literally gravitate toward each other.  Always have.  Sometimes using sugar as a bribe works to get her to eat at least a couple bites of her dinner.  Sometimes, she hears "treat" and forgets about her dinner altogether and becomes fixated upon dessert.  However, as she is growing up, she sometimes motivates herself....she will eat all her dinner with no word about dessert in hopes that there is dessert at the end when she presents an empty plate.  Here's the problem:  I don't always have a dessert for every dinner.  Fail.  OR I have a dessert, but it is set aside and earmarked for a different purpose (like taking somewhere).  Epic fail.  She doesn't understand how a perfectly good dessert sitting on the counter is inaccessible to her when she has eaten all her "eats."  Poor girl.

Such is the story behind this dessert.  At least, that is my version of the story.  The original version went something like a couple of girls, a baking contest, and a cake so delicious that it lured the boys in.  Hence, Blueberry Boy Bait.  One bite will do it.  Caught....hook, line, and sinker.

I took this to my church as a contribution to a funeral dinner that the church held after the burial.  It was fun to tell the story behind it.  Afterward, one of the men came up to me and told me he was the bait.  The cake hooked him.  Too funny!!

This is more like a coffeecake than a dessert cake, but since I needed to provide a dessert, I decided to forgo the 9x13 baking dish is lieu of two round cake pans.  I still had a significant amount of blueberry cream cheese frosting left over from the mind-blowing lemon cupcakes.  As I was explaining to my son Bennett my adaptations, he exclaimed, "Oh, like a layer cake, Mom?!"  I'm not gonna heart did a little pitter-patter that my son knows what a layer cake is and how it is different from other cakes!

Blueberry Boy Bait
Source:  Smitten Kitchen

2 cups plus 1 tsp. flour
1 tbl. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen, un-defrosted)

Frosting HERE, optional

1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 9x13 baking pan (I used 2 8-inch round cake pans).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated and scraping down the bowl.  Reduce speed, and alternately add flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Toss blueberries with teaspoon of flour and coat evenly.  With a spatuala, fold in blueberries and spread batter into prepared pan.

In a zip baggie, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping.  Scatter remaining blueberries over the top of the batter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and dry.  Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out cake onto a serving platter topping side up.  (you can even just leave the cake in the pan if you prefer!)  If you're making a layer cake like I did, let cool completely.  Pipe frosting onto the top of one of the rounds and place the second round on top.  Simply decorate the top with any remaining frosting.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

{for the frosting, I used the leftover frosting from these cupcakes}

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Baked Ziti

I must have you know:  my family is huge on pasta.  Maybe you knew that already.  Maybe not.  El Hub and I have always been fans of pasta.  Even to this day, my  mom makes a big ol' pot of spaghetti for my birthday.  Every year.  It's been a tradition for *ahem* 29 years.  I jump at just about every chance to make pasta myself--in fact, sometimes I have to restrain myself in my weekly menus to not serve it all.the.time.  
Let's talk about this ziti.  
One word, said in a cutesy sing-song voice:  ah-may-zing!  La, la, la, la....  

The method for this pasta is not quite authentic, but it works splendidly.  The cream in the cheese sauce is magical and of course, fresh tomato sauce is a sure win.  I used hot Italian sausage which imparts the perfect balance of spice and zing.  Be sure to  be generous with the fresh basil.  My sugar-freak daughter was so proud of herself for "chowing down" on this meal....yet another win.  This recipe makes a ton of pasta, so it is a great choice to serve to company.  Or, enjoy it leftover!  
Baked Ziti
Adapted slightly from Annie's Eats
2 cups cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 lb. ziti or penne pasta
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  
Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave in colander.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add Italian sausage and cook until nearly browned.  Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.  
In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes (don't boil).  Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.
Transfer the pasta to a large 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fried Zucchini

Seriously, this is my absolute favorite way to eat zucchini, and my kids love it as well.  You know, the kind of zucchini that overflows out of summer gardens to the point of having no idea what to do with it all?  The kind where there is only so much zucchini bread that you can bake and fill your freezer with?  I mean, winter in Indiana lasts a long time, but seriously not long enough to each all that zucchini bread that is stashed away.

So, if you can even imagine me saying to take a break from baking, fry some of that garden zucchini yumminess up.  Don't worry too much about the fried part;  just enjoy some of summer's bounty in one of the best forms!

Fried Zucchini
a growing up summer staple, from my dad  :)

1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 eggs
2 tbl. milk
canola oil, for cooking
additional Parmesan cheese and salt to taste for serving

Wash and slice zucchini into 1/4 inch thick rounds, discarding both ends.

In a medium container, shorter than taller, gently combine flour, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.  Set aside.

In another medium container, lightly whisk together the eggs and milk.

In an electric skillet, heat oil, generously covering the bottom of the skillet.

To prepare zucchini, dip each slice into egg/milk mixture, then coat both sides evenly in flour mixture.  Transfer to a wax-paper lined plate in single layers, until all zucchini slices are breaded.  (At this point, you can refrigerate until ready to cook).

Cook several at a time in a single layer in hot oil.  Once the bottom is browned, turn and continue cooking until the other side is nicely browned as well.  Repeat with remaining slices.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to serve.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and salt sprinkled over each slice.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stuffed Strawberries

Can I just say it?  (It's been a while, really....)

Oh. My. Goodness.

Seriously, this is one of the best ways to eat fresh strawberries.  I love the flavor that the mascarpone cheese adds to the whipped cream, and who couldn't use a few more recipes with cardamom (after all, if you're like me, you bought this expensive spice for one recipe, so the hunt is perpetually on for more ways to use it!).

Let's back up to the mascarpone cheese.

Have you made it homemade yet?  You need to.  Pronto.

For these strawberries.  You might find yourself eternally grateful....maybe to me, or maybe just to the fact that you made them.  You are going to love them!

Stuffed Strawberries
Source:  Pink Parsley

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed, halved, and slightly hulled
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 tbl. sugar
1/2 tsp. cardamom
cinnamon for sprinkling

Prepare strawberries.  Rinse them in a colander and let excess water drain.  Halve them from top to bottom, leaving the stem for decoration.  Slightly hull each half, creating a well in each strawberry half.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, sugar, and cardamom until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip for piping (or you could place whipped cream in a zip baggie and snip the corner off--that's what I did!).  Fill each strawberry half generously with whipped cream.  Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon if desired.

Serve fairly soon after piping.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cast Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Last summer, I bought a cast iron skillet at Marshall's/TJ Maxx for $12.  Good deal.  Now, if I could only report that I have gotten my money's worth out of it by the frequency of use I give it.  But alas, I think that there is a part of my cast iron skillet that intimidates me.  I don't know why....maybe I'm just not sure what all I can make in it.  I know....I know....I need to get over it!  Well, maybe baking a chocolate chip cookie in it will help me overcome my cast iron fear....

This cookie reminds me of a chocolate chip pan cookie monster dessert at the local restaurant where El Hub and I met in 1999 on a blind double date....he's always game for a big, gooey, chocolatey dessert!

Cast Iron Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
Source:  Martha Stewart

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) mixed milk- and semisweet-chocolate chips

  • Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 35-40 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges.   (This is really yummy with vanilla ice cream served on top!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oven Baked French Fries

I make these so often, I can't hardly believe I haven't shared the recipe with you.  I roast vegetables often, and potatoes are no exception.  I have tried several "french fry" recipes which require soaking, coating in egg whites, and various other techniques designed to create that illustrious soft center and crispy outside.  Quite honestly, I think the simpler the approach, the better.  I personally haven't had great luck with all those fancy methods and much prefer this way over all the ones I've tried.  Take it from this fanatical french fry fan--these are amazing in their simplicity!

For your own customization, I am just going to list the ingredients (but not quantity--make however much or little you want!) and the simple procedure.  Then you can go to town!  :)

Oven Baked French Fries

baking potatoes (I have used russet, white, red--pretty much whatever I have in my pantry!)
olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Scrub potatoes clean and cut lengthwise in half.  Cut each half in half again.  Lay flat on cutting surface, and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips.  Repeat with remaining potatoes.

Transfer fries to prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, to taste.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until fries are golden brown and crispy.  (Sometimes, I will even finish them up on a low broil to crisp them up!).  Lightly turn halfway through baking with a spatuala.

Serve hot.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Ever since jumping on the ever-popular cupcake bandwagon, I am amazed at how many flavor combinations exist out there.  Not being a huge fan of fancy decorating (like making Hello Kitty decorated cupcakes--nah!), I am willing to settle on an outstanding flavor.  When I first saw these cupcakes, I was impressed with how pretty they were.  I definitely am more of a fruit dessert kind of girl (as opposed to chocolate) and I loved the idea of using fresh (or frozen) blueberries in the frosting.  And since blueberry season reaches its peak very soon, the timing of these cupcakes is spot-on!

For the record, even though I've made several stellar, life-changing, mind blowing cupcakes (think espresso buttercream!), I think that these cupcakes jumped to the top of my favorites list with the first bite.

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Largely adapted from Une Gamin dans la Cuisine

Cupcake Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
the juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325F, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute per egg. Scape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the almond extract, zest and juice, mix well.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix only until just incorporated.

Fill each liner almost to the top with batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cupcakes to rest for 10 minutes before removing. Cool completely before frosting.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup of fresh blueberries (I used frozen)
1 stick of unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
8 oz of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon of pure almond extract

Place the blueberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed.

In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 5 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar. After all the powdered sugar is added, beat until well-combined.

Add the almond extreact and 4 tablespoons of the blueberry puree. Mix until just blended. If the consistency looks too thin, add a bit more confectioners sugar.  The frosting should be thick and creamy.  Refrigerate until ready to use (refrigeration will also help it thicken).

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  I used a 1M tip.

Makes 12-15 cupcakes