Recipes

Lemon Blueberry Cake

A friend forwarded me a link to a list of must-try cake recipes and this lemon blueberry one from Sally’s Baking Addiction caught my eye. The only thing I did differently was using less lemon than the recipe called for. I prefer a subtler lemon flavor. The cake was easy to make and delicious but I have to say that this cake does not store well at all.

I stored this cake like I do all other cakes and the next day it was hard and very dense. Nothing like the moist, light consistency of the day before. I left it out for a couple of hours and this did little to improve the texture, in my opinion. This cake is best made and served on the same day. I might try making it again in the future to see if I have similar results. I measured my dry ingredients by weight for better accuracy so I know this is not an issue of too much flour.

Regardless of my experience with storing it I give this cake a thumbs up. It’s got that lights citrusy flavor that feels like you’re eating sunshine.

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A slice of cake after being refrigerated overnight.

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Cinnamon Rolls (with cream cheese glaze)

I just can’t help myself, even though I had sworn off baking the sweet stuff I have been sucked back into the kitchen once more. This time I made these cinnamon rolls. I wish I could explain how delicious they were.

I browsed a lot of recipes and settled on the one I found on Epicurious. I don’t think I had ever tried a recipe from this site before. I made the dough using my stand mixer. I also made one teeny, tiny mistake. I forgot to add the egg! Once I had set the dough aside to rise I started cleaning up a bit and that’s when I saw the lone egg still sitting on the counter.

I panicked briefly and wondered if I should throw out the dough but then I thought, cinnamon rolls are bread and plenty of bread is eggless. So I proceeded. They turned out great! I do want to eventually make them again, this time adding the egg. I should probably do this sooner rather than later so I don’t forget what these eggless ones tasted like…

Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite things to do. For one thing, it challenges me. I love attempting something that intimidates me. I also like know exactly what goes into my food. These are by no means  something we should be eating everyday but because they’re labor intensive to make I know that I won’t be eating them frequently.

These are best fresh. They will keep for a day or two (covered) at room temperature.

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Fresh burger buns

I have always bought burger buns from my grocer’s bakery. We don’t often have burgers but when we do we do it the easy way. What’s not to like? It’s convenient to purchase ready made breads. Since I’ve made the decision to eat cleaner I’ve been learning how to make more of what we eat at home. When you make things from scratch you know exactly what is in your food. You also know that your food is free of any unpronounceable preservatives etc. I also happen to enjoy cooking from scratch, but whatever the reason you decide to make them these buns are delicious.

I found this  recipe by Chef John on Allrecipes.com and since I had already made another one of his bread recipes I decided I couldn’t go wrong.  I highly recommend that you try this recipe. For a complete list of ingredients, instructions and a video demonstration click here.

I don’t really have much else to say. This recipe makes eight generously sized buns. You could easily get ten buns out of it. In order to get equally sized buns I weighed the dough and figured out how much each of them should weigh. They are best the day you bake them but they will keep for a day or two in a zip bag.

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My taste tester!

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Also good in a BLT.

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Delicious Banana Bread

There’s nothing worse than having food go to waste and in an effort to avoid doing just that I found myself in the lucky predicament of needing to use up some bananas. Naturally, I made some banana bread.

Joy of Baking has what I consider to be the best library of recipes around. Coupled with the Youtube videos demonstrating most of them and you have a fabulous resource. Stephanie Jaworski has the grace and poise of an experienced cook and she makes you feel like you can do it too. Even though she makes it all look effortless don’t be fooled, she has serious skills.

The banana bread recipe I used is from her website and you can find it here. 

I was all out of nuts so I omitted those and I sprinkled some oats on top of one of the loaves. I liked the oats on top, it added some nice texture.

I baked the loaves in paper molds. These were smaller than a regular loaf pan which is exactly what I wanted. These are great for gift giving as they are greaseproof and the paper is a pretty brown with gold print. I picked these up from Sur la Table for 75 cents each.

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Creamy rice with chicken and vegetables

I was in the mood for a hearty meal today and something creamy was catching my fancy. Now, creamy is one of those words that sets people off towards the gym but let’s be real, eating something indulgent once in a while is perfectly fine. I’ve seen recipes for creamy rice multiple times and a lot of them require canned cream of chicken or something along those lines. Personally, I am not a fan of canned anything so I wanted to make something similar but without all the additives.

The results were delicious. This is not the kind of dish that I would make often but it’s definitely one that I will add to my rotation.  I don’t have precise instructions on how to make it. I don’t measure unless I’m following a recipe, so the best I can do is share what I used and how I cooked it.

You will need:

brown rice

chopped onion

chicken thighs cut up into bite size pieces (I used two)

chicken stock

flour

butter

olive oil

vegetables of your choice (I used a frozen medley of carrots, peas, corn and green beans)

The first thing I did was sauté the onions in a little olive oil. I then added the rice and toasted it for a bit before adding the stock. Make sure to taste your stock, especially if you’re using store bought. You might not need to add any additional salt. You can either add water or chicken stock to your rice. I chose to use stock. You can also use vegetable stock. Cook the rice as you normally would.

In a pan melt a tablespoon of butter and a generous tablespoon of olive oil. Add your chicken. The chicken should be lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Sauté until the chicken is mostly cooked and has developed some color. Add a table spoon or so of flour and stir this flour in throughout the chicken. This is going to create our sauce. It is important to cook the flour a little before adding in the chicken stock. After adding in the stock allow it to come up to a simmer. If the sauce is too thick add a little more stock. Once it’s simmering add your vegetables and stir.

At this point your chicken is done and you can use this as a filling for pot pies if you like. You can also skip the chicken and add mushrooms to make this a vegetarian dish.

When your rice is done add the chicken and vegetables to the rice and combine thoroughly. You should have a creamy rice and chicken mixture. Finish with a splash of heavy cream.

If I had thyme, tarragon, or sage I would have definitely added that to the chicken. I was also out of garlic, which was unfortunate but even without these ingredients I was happy with the finished product. Best of all, there were plenty of leftovers which means I don’t have to cook tomorrow!

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Delicious, gluten-free dessert

The holidays are pretty much behind us and it’s time to look to the year ahead. This year, I want to share more savory recipes and as I looked to rid myself of the last of the sugars laying about the house I came up with a dessert that will likely be my go-to whenever I am hosting a dinner.

I love cheesecake, it’s rich, decadent, and refreshing. I had two bricks of cream cheese in the fridge and what better way to use them up than to make cheesecake batter and pour it into a lined cupcake pan? The recipe is simple and all of the ingredients are gluten-free (or can at least be found gluten-free).

The end result is a beautiful dessert that you will be proud to share.

You will need:

16 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, you can also use a hand mixer (if you have strong arms you can even do it by hand with a wooden spoon). Once creamy and smooth, add the sugar and cream together.

It is important that the cream cheese be at room temperature otherwise you will have a lumpy batter.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

Pour into lined cupcake pan. Depending on how much you fill them you should be able to fill 12 slots.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be almost set in the middle but still wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the oven and setting on a cooling rack.

The cheesecakes will deflate a little. Allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Raspberry orange champagne sauce

The cheesecakes are already wonderful as they are but I had some frozen raspberries I wanted to use up so I threw them into a saucepan along with the juice and pulp of one orange. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a generous splash of champagne. I brought it all to a boil and simmered it for a few minutes until it  had reduced a bit.

At this point taste your sauce and add a little more sugar if you feel it needs it. I wanted the sauce to be fresh with a hint of tartness, not sickly sweet.

I then strained the mixture and discarded al the seed and pulp. I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered until it thickened a little. Once I was happy with the consistency I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it into a bowl and placing it in the fridge.

Plating

Carefully, remove the cheesecake from the cupcake wrapper. Place upside down on a plate. This conceals the sunken top part and gives you a flat, smooth surface on which to spoon your sauce. Top with as much sauce as you want and top with fresh whipped cream. I recommend taking the first one you plate up as a little chef’s treat, practice your presentation on this one and modify your approach on the others.

This was my first attempt (too much sauce):

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Never made your own whipped cream before? It’s easy. You need really cold heavy cream and a really cold bowl. I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe. You can add vanilla extract and powdered sugar if you want.

These can be plated a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Delicious butternut squash soup

I find myself cooking a lot of the same things over and over again. It can get pretty boring. My husband doesn’t have an adventurous palate and in this way he is the toddler our table. Diego will eat pretty much anything and although some new textures receive a less than warm reception from him at first, he usually comes round.

When we went grocery shopping last week I picked up some butternut squash. I love butternut squash soup but rarely make it. The first time I had it was at Whole Foods and I loved it so much I made my own that same week. Now, I probably mention this in every recipe I share but it’s worth noting that I don’t really cook from a recipe most of the time. I use recipes as guides, not rules. I am comfortable enough in the kitchen where precise measurements aren’t my thing. Baking is VERY different in that regard, but for savory meals a little common sense and knowledge is all you need.

This is my take on butternut squash soup.  I hope you try it and love it as much as I did!

You will need:

1.5- 2 lbs butternut squash

2 medium carrots

1 small/medium onion

1 large garlic clove (or a couple of small ones)

2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)

3 basil leaves

1 tblsp cream cheese

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp paprika

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and roughly chop your vegetables. You will need to remove the seeds from your squash. Don’t worry about being neat, just try to make the pieces somewhat uniform so they cook evenly. You can either mince the garlic or throw it in whole. If you throw it in whole you can remove it before pureeing it (something to think about if you don’t want/like too much garlic).
  2. In a pot heat some olive oil on medium-high heat (you can also use coconut oil, or really, any oil of your choice) and add vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are not using salt-free stock go easy on the salt at this point. Add the cumin and paprika. Sauté until the vegetables have developed a little color and have begun to soften.
  3. Take your basil leaves and roll them up as best you can. Cut at an angle down the length of your basil cigar 😉 add to your vegetables and stir to combine.
  4. Add two cups of stock. (I used chicken stock that I had made the night before). To make this a vegetarian meal just use the vegetable stock.
  5. With a clean spoon taste the soup. If you feel it needs some more salt and pepper add it now. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. By this point your vegetable will be soft and fully cooked. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool for a bit. This is a good time to remove the garlic clove if you left it whole and want to do so.
  7. This next step can be done in a countertop blender, immersion blender, or food mill. I used a blender and all I did was pour the soup into the jar along with the cream cheese and blend until smooth. You can use heavy cream instead of cream cheese and how much you use is up to you. I would say about 1/4 cup should be plenty. Also, if you use heavy cream make sure not to add it when the soup is boiling as that will cause it to split. And that wouldn’t be, as Alton Brown says,”good eats”.
  8. Pour the soup back into the pot and gently heat up again if needed. Your soup is now ready to serve and enjoy.
  9. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Bonus recipe!

Did you know that your delicious butternut squash soup can double as pasta sauce? It is delicious and a perfect way to use up leftovers. All you need is the pasta of your choice and an additional spoonful of cream cheese. Here’s what I did: I cooked my pasta according to package directions. While my pasta cooked I poured some of the soup into a pan and gently heated it through. Once the pasta was cooked and drained I added it to the soup along with a spoonful of cream cheese. I stirred until the cream cheese had melted into the sauce and pasta. I garnished with basil (I grow it in my garden and find any excuse to use it!). If I’d had some parmesan cheese on hand I would have added some…next time!

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5 ingredient crustless cheesecake

It is no secret that I love to bake. I love cooking in general but baking is what I love to share most. Desserts are a great treat. I love them. As I’ve gotten older I have found that I don’t enjoy the sweetness of most commercially produced desserts. A lot of foods I used to enjoy now feel sickly sweet to my palate. This is one of the many reasons I love baking from scratch. The treats I make are always just sweet enough.

Last night, I was in the mood for some cheesecake and so I set out to make my own. This crustless cheesecake requires only five ingredients and the ones it omits results in less calories while still being delicious.

You will need:

16 oz cream cheese (this is a treat so use full fat!) at room temperature

3 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

one lemon

flavoring of your choice: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and eggs until smooth.

Zest your lemon and add as much zest as you would like. I zested about half my lemon and used that. I also squeezed out about half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add the zest and juice to the mixture.

Add a quarter teaspoon of almond extract or vanilla extract.

Mix until combined.

Pour into 9 inch glass pie dish.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Edges should be golden brown. When you remove from the oven the cheesecake may be a little puffed up. It will deflate as it cools. Leave it to cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

You can top with fresh berries, whipped cream or the traditional sour cream topping.  I went with a lemon slice 😀

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Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

The zucchinis in the fridge had to be eaten. In the interest of not wasting food I decided to look up recipes and was pleased to find this recipe on The Idea Room for Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I was immediately sold on it and decided I would try it out the next day. I ended up altering the recipe and making cupcakes instead of a cake but the results were nothing short of amazing. If you check out the original recipe you will notice that I substituted the lemon juice for white vinegar and I omitted the nuts and ground cloves. The reason is simple, I didn’t have these ingredients on hand! Lemon juice is acidic and is often added to milk in order to sour it and turn it into a buttermilk substitute. I am guessing you could substitute the milk and vinegar with buttermilk.

The only oil I had in the house was olive oil so I used that. I would probably use coconut oil the next time around but I can attest that the olive oil worked beautifully. The cupcakes were moist, rich and chocolatey. My husband had no idea they had zucchini in them. They are by far the most delicious chocolate cupcakes I have had in a long time.

If you would like to give them a try here is what you will need:

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup oil (you can use any flavorless oil of your choice)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the full recipe visit The Idea Room!

These cupcakes do not need any frosting! If you want you could dust them with some powdered sugar but in my opinion they are perfect as is.

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Cookie Thursday (on a Monday!)

My husband loves oatmeal raisin cookies. In particular, he enjoys the Pillsbury ready to bake ones. I do not share his enthusiasm, partly because I am not fond of raisins and also because I have long suspected that these Pillsbury cookies are oatmeal cookies in name only. Seriously, there isn’t an oat in sight and the first ingredient listed is sugar. Our grocery store stopped carrying them so my husband will track them down at another store every once in a while. A couple of weeks ago he informed me that I could not make a cookie that rivaled the overly processed hunk of sugar he was happily munching on. Naturally, I was nothing short of insulted. I was also amused, because let’s face it there are few things I do well and baking happens to be one of them.

I accepted his challenge and declared that I would set up a blind taste test for him in the near future. I immediately got to work researching recipes and watching video demonstrations. I finally decided to try out this recipe from Beantown Baker. I tweaked it only slightly. The cookies were delicious. Even a raisin-hater like myself enjoyed these.

What about my husband? Well, he prefers the texture of the Pillsbury ones. I know, it’s a disgrace! Ha ha. He did tell me that my cookies were just as good flavor-wise. Meh, I don’t consider him a pillar of good cookie taste anyway.

If you would like to try out these cookies here is what you will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, or 115 grams) softened butter
2/3 cup (125 grams) dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins

I recommend weighing your ingredients. I find that this gives you accurate amounts. Visit Beantown Baker for the full recipe and directions!

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