Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

These were really awesome. I brought these to Easter, and it seemed like people really enjoyed them.

Also, the peanut butter frosting could be used on many different plain cupcakes.

I slightly modified the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcake recipe from My Baking Addiction.

Cupcake Ingredients
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 T baking powder
4 large egg whites (at room temp)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (at room temp)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (at room temp)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Jelly (I used grape.)

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and buttermilk.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then, add the vanilla. Slowly add a third of the dry mixture while beating at medium speed. Add half of the egg/buttermilk, a third of the dry mixture, the last of the egg/buttermilk, and finally, the last of the dry ingredients. Beat for a few more minutes until the batter is consistent throughout.Start putting the mixture in paper cupcake liners. I made 20 cupcakes.

Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350. Cool.

Now comes a fun part. I was able to use my apple corer that I got from my friend Amanda to create a space for the jelly filling. It's up to you to decide how much space you'd like to make for the jelly filling. After creating the space, add the jelly to each cupcake.


Frosting Ingredients
1 cup of peanut butter
3 sticks of butter (at room temp)
2 lbs powdered sugar
8 T heavy cream
2 T vanilla extract


To make the frosting, cream the peanut butter and butter in a standing mixer on medium speed. Switch to low speed, and add the powdered sugar while blending. Add the heavy cream and vanilla. Mix on high speed until the frosting is smooth and evenly blended.

I used a plastic bag to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes because that's how I roll, but if you have all of the proper frosting tools, use those. Make sure that the cupcakes are cooled before adding the frosting.


After the cupcakes have been frosted, add a drop of jelly to each cupcake.

This recipe makes a lot of frosting, and I have a lot left over. Maybe I didn't put enough on each cupcake, but I regret that I didn't have other plain cupcakes on hand. This frosting would be awesome on lots of other cupcakes. Taste it, and you'll see.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Soup

I found this delicious recipe on another food blog called Very, Very Good.

View the full recipe here --> Sweet Potato Soup with Nutmeg, Maple Syrup, & Bacon

I followed this recipe exactly- with the exception of using a Dutch oven instead of a stock pot. It was very sweet and yummy. Can you ever go wrong with BACON?


Monday, April 25, 2011

Boston Food Trucks - Clover Food!

The City of Boston has been slower than other urban cities to embrace the idea of Food Trucks.  I'm not sure why, but we've been missing out.  BUT! All that is about to change this summer.  It was reported last week (or the week before) that the Rose Kennedy Greenway will have 12 permitted food trucks serving lunch over the summer. 

In the city of $8 salads and sandwiches, this is excellent news!!  Food trucks are usually cheaper, and often times healthier, than the multitude of sandwich shops and lunch joints dotted around the city. 

After a mid day workout, I headed back to the office, through Government Center, only to discover that THREE food trucks were parked on the concourse and serving lunch.  Already.  Before Memorial Day!  Wooo!  A little research discovered this.  I quickly scheduled a lunch date with two of my Thailand ladies and the next day we headed over to the Clover Food Truck



The guys working this truck are awesome.  The one in the hat here can answer any questions you might have - including, what the heck is BBQ Seitan?  What sandwich did that Attractive Suit just walk away with?  Which sandwich is lower in calories?  Is spring EVER going to get here?  Do you think I could get a date with the Attractive Suit?  You know, IMPORTANT questions that one must absolutely know the answers to.  He can tap your order into his little pad and they even take credit cards.  All their ingredients are locally sourced and everything on the menu is hand made.  Nicceee...

All the sandwiches are $5.  After a line of questioning, I went with the BBQ Seitan.  I've never had Seitan before.  Seitan is a protien based something or other - obviously meant to replace meat.  I was skeptical, but it had BBQ sauce on it, so really, how bad could it be?!

The answer is not that bad at all.  In fact, really tasty!  I loved this sandwich.  It was the perfect size for lunch, wasn't overly doused in BBQ sauce and the vegetables were really fresh and high quality.  The pita was a nice change over heavy breads.  I really wanted to get the rosemary fries for $3, but I am trying to be really, really good, so that wasn't in the (calorie) budget.  Seriously, the scent of those overcame my nose and I had to beat feet outta there before I succombed. 

I'm easy sell.  What can I say? Smells get every time.

Check out the Clover menu here and get down to Government Center for lunch.  Your stomach, and wallet, will be happy you did!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pasta with Goat Cheese and Tomatoes

The week I left for Thailand was a very busy week.  I had a full fridge, but also a busy social calendar.  As I was preparing to leave Friday morning, I took a look in my fridge and thought, what a waste.  I had gorgeous tomatoes, goat cheese, fresh arugala, herbs.... so many things that would clearly not make it to the other side of being gone for 11 days. 

So I did what any self respecting person would do.  I cheffed and froze.  Cheffed and froze. Which means that I threw together a pasta dish I had been meaning to make and I literally put everything else into the freezer.  Herbs.  Cheese.  Ricotta.  Leftovers.  In it all well.

It's awesome being single and getting to make judgment calls like this. 

With everything packed and ready to go for Thailand, I whipped out the i4 and got to work on a recipe I had been drooling over at The Chubby Cook.  I haven't met Scott, but I consistently drool over the amazing creations that come out of his kitchen.  And his food photography is top notch.  Head over there and prepare to get hungry.

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes and Argula (as adapted from The Chubby Cook)
  • 1 box rotini or other pasta which will catch the sauce
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried, or four medium size tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper



See what I am talking about here?  These tomatoes were gorgeous and just asking to be cheffed up.  It would have been a crying shame to let them go bad.  If you can't find cherry tomatoes (neither Trader Joes, nor Shaw's had any!), you can go with four or so really good looking tomatoes.  When sliced, try to retain the juices, this is a key element in making the sauce. 



You know the drill - heat a tablespoon of EVOO in a pan.  Once it's hot, add in the tomatoes.  Keep these moving around the pan so they don't burn.  The juices will start to loosen out of the slices and the tomatoes will begin to soften. If you're using cherry or grape tomatoes, some will start to burst.  Cook about six minutes and add in the garlic for another few minutes.   There's no science to it, so feel it out.


Now it's time to add in the goat cheese.  You're going to go from red to pink almost immediately.  I didn't need any extra salt, but it did definitely need some fresh ground black pepper.  Depending on how thin your sauce is at this point, add your reserved pasta water to achieve desired consistency.  I didn't need any at all.  Remove from heat and add in argula.  Stir to wilt it a bit into the sauce.   



Take your pasta in bowl, add in the sauce.... and


SERVE! 



 I topped with a bit of parmesan. And at 9 o'clock in the morning, right before I left on a 20 hour trip to Thailand, I ate a bowl of this. Awesome. It's fresh. It's light feeling. It's tasty and I can't believe how fast it all came together. I packaged the leftover into tupperwares and into the freezer they went. You know, along with the rest of the goat cheese, ricotta, herbs...  I then quickly did some dishes, wiped down the kitchen and plopped on the couch for a moment of peace before heading off on the vacation of a lifetime.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cookbooks on my Nook


The BF surprised me with a Nook for Xmas, and I fell in love with it immediately. I am able to borrow books freely from my public library, and downloading each book is quick and easy.

This week, I discovered that there were cookbooks available! I checked out Rachael Ray's Look & Cook. I am allowed to view this book for 21 days on my Nook. After 21 days the book expires, and it magically disappears from my Nook. My Nook is black & white. I didn't want the color because I didn't want a backlight. I spend most of my day online (3 jobs), and during times of leisurely reading, I wanted something easy on the eyes.

Black & white photos of food aren't quite as awesome as color photos, but I have been very impressed with cooking the recipes in Look & Cook.
When I go grocery shopping for ingredients, I bring my lightweight Nook in my purse. There is no need to make a list.

Let me know if you have any questions about borrowing cookbooks from your public library. Also, let me know if you have any questions about purchasing an e-reader. I have done my homework on this topic.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Birthday

My birthday was on Sunday. Reflecting on my 29th year included fond memories of cooking and lessons learned in my kitchen.

I was blessed with some great gifts for my kitchen! I can't wait to use (or eat) all of these cool things!!!

Seasonings, oil, risotto, and a serving plate from my parents -
A springform pan from the BF's parents -

A garlic press and a mortar/pestle from my BF -

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Rarely do I ever blog so quickly after making a dish, but I am so excited by this one I can hardly stand it.  Yesterday, I was day dreaming about food (as I so typically do, umm... pretty much all day long) and I saw that another blogger had recently took on the challenge of making gnocchi for the first time.  Now, I like gnocchi, but I won't typically order it at a restaurant for my entree.  It's a heavy dish.  But I've always wanted to make it.  You know, just to see if I could.

But what kind of gnocchi?  What sort of sauce?  A few weeks ago, I had an amazing dinner at a restaurant in the North End called Carmen.  The food was nothing less than spectacular.  It's a charming, tiny restaurant, totally unassuming in it's location away from hustle of Hanover street.  The wine list is nicely priced and the atmosphere is the perfect setting for an intimate meal.  I was immediately drawn to the Short Rib Ravioli with Sage Butter Sage, to which I ordered and savored every bite of.  It was one of the more memorable dishes I have had in a Boston area restaurant in months.  What I remember standing out was the brown butter sauce.  I'm such an addict for sauces of any kind, so I really wanted to lick the plate.  But again, manners, nice restaurant, blah blah blah.

A sister has got to be proper, yo.

Anyways, inspired by this amazing meal, I decided that at a later point, I would put short rib ravioli on my list of kitchen endeavors, but for tonight, it would be sweet potato gnocchi with a sage brown butter sauce.  Upon researching the intrawebs for a recipe, I realized that I pretty much had all ingredients on hand... except for a sweet potato.  Really?  Could it be this easy?

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter (as adapted from Epicurious)
  • 1 pound red-skinned sweet potatoe, rinsed, patted dry, pierced all over with fork
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish
Apologies in advance... I turned on my Nikon last night only to discover a dead battery.  And then tried my Sony p&s.  Dead.  Clearly, I overshot in Thailand.  So where's a girl to turn to?  i4.  Clearly.  Let's get after it.



 

Start by piercing your potato and popping it into the microwave for 5 minutes a side.  Because this was a very large sweet potato, I ended up cutting into after this and popping the middle sections back in for another 3 or so.  Then allow to cool.
 
Once cool, remove skins and mash in a mixing bowl.
 
 


Add in ricotta cheese.  I'm really not sure what purpose the sieve had for draining.  I did this step, but if you don't, I can't imagine it would change the recipe all that much.  Barely anything "sieved" out of mine.  Mix well.

 

 Add in parmesan, brown sugar, salt and nutmeg.
 

Again, mix well.


Now, it's time to add in the flour, 1/2 cup at time.  Don't pack the flour into the measuring cup, spoon it.  I am just learning this now and I think it's why all my baking sucks (things get too dense).  Slowly mix in the flour until it starts to flour a soft dough.

I decided that a soft dough meant that it wasn't that sticky anymore.  I ended up with about 2 1/4 cups flour in total.  I think one could get away with less.  I wonder if my gnocchi were too "doughy"?  Either way, feel it out.


That was a serious work out, all that dough mixing.  I did a cardio strength training class just before making these... so let me tell you, my arms were burning.    Now, divide the dough into sections.  I did about softball sized chunks.

It's time to get messy.  Throw some flour down on a clean surface and start rolling out your dough to form a long rope.  Roll back and forth in fluid motions and it will start to form a good shape.  Keep moving your hand through the rope. 



What a mess.  It's worth it though.  Cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside.  Now take a fork and run the tines over the little gnocchi pillows.  I imagined this would be easy.  It wasn't.  The dough was resistant.  I had to press hard.  Which then flattened and made ugly little gnocchis.  This is partly why I think I might have used a bit too much flour.  But again, it's all about trial and error.  Fork tines are superficial.  They don't affect the way it tastes, so don't worry your pretty little self about it too much.



Now, heat up a pot of salted, boiling water and throw these bad boys in.  They have little self timers on them.  When they rise, you know they are done.  I let mine rise and then boiled for another minute or so. 


Look at that?  Perfect looking gnocchis!

Now, heat up a skillet on medium high heat and toss in your butter.  Pay attention, this is going to happen fast.  Swirl your butter in the pan as it heats, watching very closely.



And then suddenly, it will be golden brown.  Toss in sage (they will bubble) and remove from heat.  If you keep on the heat, the butter will get very dark and will begin to break down.  You'll see ash like looking pieces in it.  This will not taste good.  The good news is, you can start over very easily!



This is what burnt butter looks like.  It's not golden brown.  Yuck.  This was my first attempt, my second attempt was much better. 

Add your drained gnocchi to the brown butter sauce and saute the gnocchi on medium high for just a few minutes.  You want to warm them back up and you don't want the butter to further burn. 



Amazing... if I don't say so myself.
This was ridiculously easy.  I saved two other chunks of dough to be frozen and finished at a later date.  These little gnocchis aren't healthy by any means, so I must eat them in small moderation.  The plate above had probably about 1,000 calories.  Yikes.  The good news is they are filling.  And easy as hell to make!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spicy Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

I am on a huge pork kick lately.  I'm not sure where this sudden swap has come from, but it means that chicken is out and pork is in.  I'm so bored by chicken.... even when I try to make it exciting, it still fails to impress me.  I'm over it like a bad date. 

But pork... oh pork.  When done right, pork is just an excellent meat.  I used to buy pork because it was on sale.  I would then cook it all wrong and force my ex to eat it.  Then I would be upset when he didn't love it, or even like it, for that matter.  And I am all like, shut up. and eat the damn pork that I have served you. we're poor and it was on sale.  Except we weren't poor at all.  But it was definitely on sale.  And sista loves a good sale.  (Apologies and I owe ya a solid pork dinner kid....)

So here's a new favorite pork recipe of mine:

Spicy Lemon- Rosemary Pork Tenderloin (from 2011 Food and Wine Cookbook):
  • 6 tbsp EVOO
  • 3/4 fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 rosemary leaves
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • four 1 pound pork tenderloins
  • salt and pepper
You can't get any easier than this.  Take all the ingredients above and toss into a plastic bag for overnight marination.  Flip a few times.

Add caption
It'll come out looking like this.  And it will smell amazing.  This is raw meat, no tasting.  Though it's tempting, this I know.  Scrap a majority of the marinade pieces off.  This will feel wasteful, but it's not.  The meat has already absorbed all the amazingness.

Heat up a pan with a little EVOO and get ready to sear up the sides of these pork loins.  Also, heat your oven to 400.
 

 

Sear both sides for about five minutes per side.  Don't disturb the meat, let it get a nice char to it.  Once both sides are nicely seared, toss onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for about 15 minutes or until the center is no longer pink. 


please excuse the disgustingness of my baking sheets.


Once the pork is fully cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  I know you want to get into it, and fast, but letting the meat rest makes sure that the juices stay in the meat.  You don't want dried out pork now do you? 

I ate this on the run, so it was a protein dinner, but this meat is flexible enough to serve with a range of sides.  Maybe a fresh cous cous? Or some spicy green beans?  Or even some creamless corn?


Bon Appetit!
 

 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Salmon with Blueberry Pan Sauce

I'm back!  I ate my face off in Thailand... as in, ordering two of everything at every meal.  Which was clearly excessive.  But... when things range between $2 and $3 each, how could I not?  I'll have a post up soon about all the amazing things I ate.  Meanwhile, despite a quiet run lately on My Kitchen, My Sanctuary, I have been in my kitchen cooking up the usual storm.  Finding time to download and blog about it?  Well, that's been a different story. (I thought being done with my MBA would give me me time.  Wrong.)

I'm addicted to anything salmon.  So fresh, so healthy, and ever so easy to prepare.  I found this recipe on Epicurious and whipped it up one night in about 30 minutes.  

Salmon wtih Blueberry Pan Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 3/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 7-ounce salmon steaks or fillets with skin (each about 3/4 inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint, divided


This one is easy, let's get after it:
Start with (my) usual onion/shallot saute.  I was surprised by the use of shallots and blueberries.  I wasn't sure what to expect from it.  However, shallots have a much lighter, less intense flavor than, say a red onion.  I'm really digging them lately.  As they start to soften, add in the garlic, thyme and allspice (I actually omitted the allspice because I didn't have any on hand.)  Also this mixture to blend together for about 30 seconds to a minute.  Let the flavors release and then move on to the next step.

Next, add in your blueberries, water and balsamic vinegar and allow to saute.

 As they warm, some will start to burst, but you can help this process along by smashing with the back of your spoon.  Or if you have an official masher of some sort, that would work well also.  Again, limited kitchen, so work with what ya got. 

Most obviously, you could use a fork too.


Allow this mixture to continue to do it's thing over medium heat.  The sauce will start to thicken, but be sure to stir frequently so it doesn't burn.


Once it looks like this, you're good to go!  Yum.  Yum.


Your salmon, perfectly seasoned with a touch of salt and some black pepper, comes out of the oven, freshly broiled for about 10 minutes.  Inside should be a dull pink.  If it looks shiny or a bit slimy, back in it goes.  It's not done. 

P.S. for years, I worked my butt of trying to deskin salmon (or any fish) before cooking it.  What a waste of time!  Once cooked, the skin flakes right off.  I wish I had known.  I would have salvaged many a piece of tortured skinless fish. 


Take your blueberry sauce and add your fresh mint.  As as much as you want.  I LOVE mint and so I went overboard on mine. 


 Add finally, top generously over the salmon.  I was in a hurry this night, so this was my complete dinner.  The recipe made enough sauce for two pieces of fish - so could be a recipe for two, OR, dinner the next night like mine was.  I love having something simple like this on hand.