Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Greg!

Tomorrow is my honey's birthday and I am whisking him away for the day so I wanted to stop in today and give him a birthday shout out!  Thank you Greg for being the sweetest, funniest most awesome hubby I could ask for - I love you!

Most years I use his birthday as an excuse to try some crazy new cake or dessert but knowing we would be gone for the day, this year I decided to frost the cupcakes leftover from my ice cream cupcake project and send them to work with him to celebrate with his coworkers.  Since starting the new job, things have still been hectic so I really needed to keep it simple.
My best advice for a super easy, yet impressive treat, is to invest in a $1 star tip for frosting cupcakes - I believe it is the Wilton 1M tip.  You can buy a huge box of piping bags for about $10 and they will last a few years (I am still on my first box that I bought two years ago) or you can even use a large ziploc bag.   

With a quick swirl on each cupcake, you will easily become the next Cupcake Wars champion!  My biggest piece of advice for frosting cupcakes is to go fast, the worst thing that can happen is you end up scraping the frosting back into the bag and trying again.  And of course, making cupcakes gives you an excuse to expand your sprinkle collection, because really, can you ever have too many sprinkles?

So Greg, if you are reading this, you now know we are going on a canoeing trip and camping - hope you are ready to fish me out of the river when I go overboard!
Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Lazy Yet Good Meal


A couple weekends ago, Greg and I were looking for something quick but relatively healthy to eat on a Saturday afternoon.  I had noticed over on Vanessa's blog, Presidential Living, that she had recently made a delicious looking asparagus and sausage frittata.  We did not have any potatoes or sausage on hand like she used, but I did have plenty of eggs, asparagus and bright red cherry tomatoes. 
I whisked about 8 eggs together with a splash of milk, stirred in some salt and pepper, plus fresh thyme, and poured the mixture over my chopped asparagus and toms. 
Per Vanessa's instructions, I cooked it in my cast iron skillet at 350 degrees until it was set in the center, which took about 35 minutes. 
I would love to have a taste of Vanessa's because I'm guessing the sausage gave it a really great flavor.  In the future, I will probably mix in some cheese or at least sprinkle some on top before serving.  I can't wait to try some new combinations in my next frittata.  Here are some ideas I thought up while writing this post:

- Spicy chorizo with smoky roasted poblano peppers and queso fresco
- Crispy bacon with shredded potatoes, chives, a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream on top
- Diced garden veggies with herbs, served with warm goat cheese
- Sautéed wild mushrooms and spinach, topped with swiss cheese
Wow, I better stop now.  My stomach is starting to rumble!  What would be your unique spin on the classic frittata?  Feel free to share in the comments, you guys always think of ideas that would never occur to me! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest: S'more Kebobs!

There are few things in life better than homemade ice cream, except maybe homemade ice cream in cupcake form!  I got the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer a couple summers ago and I highly recommend you go out as soon as possible and get one for yourself (or drop lots of "subtle" hints so that your husband buys you one for your birthday).  They cost a little over $60 but I'm assuming it will last a lifetime, which I consider a great investment!

Anyway, when local St. Louis blogger Stef, over at Cupcake Project announced the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest, it gave me the perfect excuse to break out my ice cream maker for my first batch of the summer.  As cohosts of this contest, Stef and Bethany, from Scoopalicious (check out for all kinds of ice cream awesomeness), were able to offer a fabulous collection of baking cookbooks for the winner of the contest.  For those who know me, cookbooks are one of my biggest weaknesses, after potato chips and red wine, of course.  Surprisingly, I don't already own any of the cookbooks in the collection - mega score!

So let's get down to business.  After creating Bobby Flay's Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes a couple weeks ago, I started thinking, rather than add toasted marshmallows to vanilla ice cream, why not try to make an ice cream that actually tastes like toasted marshmallows?  Naturally, my mind went to an ice cream cupcake s'more for the contest.  I wanted to try to branch out as much as possible, so to go with the s'more/campfire theme, I decided to make ice cream cupcake s'more kebabs - YUM!  I will warn you ahead of time, if you choose to try these recipes, give yourself plenty of time for freezing between steps.  Here is the recipe I used for Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream.  I will put my notes in red.
Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream
from The Roasting Rambler

10 ounces marshmallows
2 cups skim milk (I used whole to achieve a creamier flavor)
1 cup heavy cream
5 egg yolks
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (split in half and scrapped)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Move one of the shelves in your oven to the highest possible position and preheat the broiler at high for a few minutes. Meanwhile, line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicon mat and spread the marshmallows over the pan in a single layer. Place the pan directly under the broiler and watching closely, let them start to brown. Once they start to toast remove and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Then flip each marshmallow over and toast the other side. If the marshmallows start to expand too much make sure to remove them before they hit the heating element.

Making the ice cream base
Transfer the toasted marshmallows to the blender. Put the milk and the vanilla bean and scrapings in a heavy bottomed pan and turn the heat to medium. Stir regularly bring the milk up to a light simmer (it should be steaming, but not boiling much). While the milk warms up, put the egg yolks, sugar, and salt into a bowl and whisk together vigorously until the mixture is pale yellow.

Once the milk is hot, remove the vanilla bean and add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the egg yolk mixture while stirring. Once the milk and eggs are well mixed, add a litte more hot milk and mix again. You’re gently warming the eggs so that you don’t end up with creamy scrambled eggs. Then pour the yolk/milk mixture into the milk in the pan and start stirring gently, but constantly. Allow the mixture to heat back up to steaming, but make sure that the mixture doesn’t boil. The mixture should thicken up to about the consistency of heavy cream. Take it off the heat and stir vigoursly for about 3 minutes to cool slightly and then pour into the blender with the marshmallows. (Your blender will be very full, I let mine sit for a few minutes and gently pressed the mixture down before blending).

Cover the blender and run it for about a minute to mix well and then allow the mixture to sit for a couple of minutes (this helps the remaining marshmallow chunks to start breaking down). Run the blender again for about a minute and then add the vanilla and the cold cream and run the blender for about 30 seconds more. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Right before churning in your favorite ice cream maker, whisk the ice cream mixture to throughly blend everything together. Churn in your ice cream maker and then allow the ice cream to ripen in the freezer for at least two hours.

Now, my ice cream never did get super hard which made the kebab part a little difficult.  I'm not sure if it would have gotten harder if I had used skim milk but either way it tasted delicious!

Chocolate Ganache Topped Mini Cupcakes

Ok, for the cupcake part I was bad and used a cake mix, the food blogger's nightmare.  Sorry people!  So you can use a cake mix too or your favorite chocolate cake recipe.  I added one piece of Hershey's bar, broken in half, to each mini cupcake.  I was able to make 48 minis plus 4 regular sized cupcakes out of one box of mix (I am saving extras for another project).  Be sure to cool completely before adding ganache. 
Easy Ganache  

6 squares semi sweet baking chocolate
1 tub Cool Whip (frozen)

Melt together in the microwave for about 2 minutes (stirring every 30 seconds) until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth and glossy.  Allow to thicken for at least 15 minutes before topping your mini cupcakes.
Once your cupcakes are topped with ganache, freeze until firm.  (I skipped this step and things got messy).

Now that your cupcakes and ice cream are made, it's time to make your ice cream balls.  Simply take a packet of graham crackers and pulse several times in a food processor until it is mostly finely ground with a few bigger pieces throughout.

Working quickly, use a small cookie scoop and scoop smalls balls of ice cream, roll in graham crackers and put on a cookie sheet.  Return to the freezer until they firm up again.  Like I said earlier, my ice cream was never really firm but still tasted delicious.  Set up an assembly line with your ice cream, graham crackers and cookie sheet before you start rolling.

Once all of your components are made and frozen you can begin to assemble.  I made six skewers so I needed 12 cupcakes and 12 ice cream balls.  Set up an assembly line with your ice cream, graham crackers and a cookie sheet.  Working quickly again, skewer cupcake, ice cream, cupcake, ice cream and lay on your cookie sheet.  Freeze again and serve immediately when you remove from the freezer.

Although my original idea was to eat the s'mores directly off the skewer, they are probably best served on a plate since they are quite messy.

Also, if you have leftovers like I did, feel free to put together a deconstructed s'more sundae or make a tupperware filled with ice cream balls covered in graham crackers and keep your ice cream "truffles" in the freezer for a quick treat!

Be sure to head over to Cupcake Project's Facebook page for more droolworthy submissions!  Thanks again to Stef and Bethany for hosting this yummy contest! 


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just popping in to say hi!

Wanted to let you all know I started a new job (!!!) this week and life has been a bit hectic!  Posting will probably be a little lighter than usual until I get into this new routine.  I hope you all will stick with me through this transition.  Just know that I am still reading your blogs, just maybe not commenting as much as usual - I LOVE all the summer recipes and cocktails I've been seeing on your blogs! 

Hope you are all having a great week and if you are in the middle of this heatwave, I hope you are staying cool!  It has been around 100 degrees in St. Louis for about a week now - yowzas!

Talk to you soon (hopefully!).

Ps. Any baking requests for future posts?  I would like to try some new things, just need ideas:)

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Happy Friday everyone!  Boy, have I got a good one for you today.  I know I am a little late to the game and a lot of people have probably seen this recipe before, but I am still plowing my way through my beloved cookbook, Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and this is one I just had to share.  This tart uses the same Sweet Tart Dough as the Spring Berry Tart I posted a few weeks ago, but instead of a pastry cream filling, it is loaded with buttery, lemony goodness. 
I seem to learn something new every time I'm in the kitchen and today was no different - the lesson of the day: When life gives you lemons, get a great arm workout from squeezing them and then stirring them into a deliciously light, creamy lemon curd! 
Lemon Cream Tart
from Baking: From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) (Tip: I have found I get more juice out of a lemon if I let it come to room temperature and roll it firmly over the counter before cutting and squeezing.  It seems to "loosen up" the juices.)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (see below)

Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.

Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start whisking as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch.  Cook until it reaches 180°F, whisking continually to prevent eggs from scrambling. You will see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. The tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature.  This part can take up to 10 minutes. 

As soon as it reaches 180°F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. (Cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.) 
When you are ready to make the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.  Best served chilled on the day you assemble.

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 1 9" Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 TBSP (9 TBSP) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. (If you don't have a tart pan a pie pan would probably work too)  Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don't be too heavy-handed - press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.  
I wanted to make this tart in its most pure and simple form this time since it was my first time making it.  Dorie suggests layering with fruit or adding a dollop of whipped cream if you want to make it fancier.  What would you add to this recipe to give it a special touch?  I was considering a drizzle of raspberry sauce!

Hope you all have a great weekend - see ya Monday!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zucchini-Goat Cheese Pizza


It's been a crazy week so far.  It is flying by so quickly, I think having Monday as a holiday does that.  I'm here today to share a simple pizza recipe with you.  Sometimes you just need a recipe that you can throw together quickly and still avoid the fast food trap.  You can add any veggies you like to this pizza and with the farmer's markets in full swing, the possibilities are endless.  I will post the link to the recipe but to make it even easier, I used premade pizza dough and sauce.  Greg and I almost ate the whole thing in one sitting so if you are planning for more than two people you might want to make two pizzas.
Zucchini-Goat Cheese Pizza
from Vegetarian Times

2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
8 oz. (1/2 pkg.) prepared refrigerated pizza dough
1 3.5-oz. log goat cheese, thinly sliced or roughly chopped
1 zucchini, peeled into thin strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into rings

Sauce (I used jarred sauce but here is the recipe they suggest)
1 6-oz. can no-salt-added tomato paste
2 Tbs. finely minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. red wine or red wine vinegar

To make Pizza: Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush large baking sheet or pizza pan with 1 Tbs. oil. (I highly recommend investing in a pizza stone if you like pizza as much as me.  You can find them for as little as $20 and they last forever.  You can also use them for baking bread.)  Spread pizza dough in prepared pan.

To make Sauce: stir together all ingredients with fork in small bowl.

Spread Sauce on dough. Top with half of goat cheese. Spread zucchini strips over goat cheese, 
top with bell pepper rings, then remaining goat cheese. Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool 10 minutes, then cut into 6 slices.

Delicious, and (somewhat) nutritious!
Hope you are all having a great week.  Even though it was a short one, I'm ready for Friday!  I am planning on baking tomorrow morning and should be back with a weekend post for a Lemon Tart, yum!