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Watermelon Feta Mixed Greens Salad
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For the past 2 or 3 summers, all I’ve heard about is how divine the watermelon and feta combination is.  And yet every rave has swept passed my radar.  It essentially wasn’t until this year that my love for feta has fully consumed me so when I stumbled across Alice’s post yesterday, I dropped what I was doing and did a mental check of the contents in my fridge – being at work all day isn’t easy when it comes to important things like this, you know.  Thankfully, a trip across the scorching grocery store parking lot on a 95 degree day wouldn’t be in my cards as all of the ingredients for this watermelon feta mixed greens salad were safely tucked away at home.  Really though, the ingredients are so basic that I’d bet in the middle of the summer you’ve probably got most, if not all, of them in your fridge too.

If you haven’t tried watermelon with feta yet and love the two foods independently like I do, get.on.it.  A quick citrus squeeze of a lemon over the top of this salad will bring the bold flavors of the red onion and salty feta together with the sweet juicy watermelon in a way you could not imagine.  It’s a truly incredible combination of flavors.  Now, while I haven’t salted my watermelon yet, I can understand why Shawnda has been raving about salted watermelon recently – the feta and watermelon together are simple and perfect, especially with a burst of citrus mixed in.  I served the salad for dinner alongside grilled chicken breast but I know this salad would make a great light lunch (as I intend to have today) or a brilliant side salad to throw together for a summer bbq.

Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
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Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

For the past three weeks I’ve been craving a yellow butter cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  This post obviously isn’t about that cake.  It’s about these Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Frosting that I nearly had to wipe the drool off of my keyboard from when I came across the recipe.  A chewy, dense, bright red (and in my opinion, all red velvet should be) brownie topped with a fluffy white chocolate buttercream frosting that actually tastes like the white chocolate I fell in love with as a child.  These are the type of brownies that will make your old Aunt Rhonda kick herself for not thinking to bring to the church picnic before her old rival, Harriett, did just that.  They’ll make people swoon and clamor over each other for seconds.  You’ll watch these babies disappear and will beam with delight.

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I’ve only made one other red velvet recipe in my lifetime and I had forgotten about the destructive power of red food coloring so be prepared to go slowly when it comes time to add it in.  Fortunately, the recipe seems to compress the mess because you’ll stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and some vanilla into a paste that you’ll add to the batter rather than pouring all of the food coloring into a whirling mixer.  That’s a disaster waiting to happen.  The white chocolate frosting is insanely sweet and I almost thought it was too sweet but by the next day, the white chocolate flavor seemed to blossom and the sweetness had diminished just a tad.  Because of this, I highly recommend making the frosting a day or two in advance and sticking it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake the brownies; it will need to come to room temperature and will likely need a good stir before you’ll be able to frost.  Whatever you do though, don’t wait another millisecond to make these.   You’ll be kicking yourself when they show up at your next party and someone else will be doing all the beaming.

[9.2.11 Update] Note: I’ve edited the bake time of the recipe below to better reflect the comments people have left about the brownies being undercooked at 30 minutes.  All ovens vary so use your best judgement and the toothpick test to ensure doneness.

Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 65 minutes

Yield: 12 brownies

Ingredients

    For the brownies:
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 oz red food coloring (or a scant 2 tbsp)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the white chocolate buttercream frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz good-quality white chocolate (not chips), melted - I recommend Callebaut
  • 1 - 2 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions

  1. To make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8"x8" baking pan.
  2. In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and 1 tsp vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in the remaining 1 tsp of vanilla. With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn't anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl. You'll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies. Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes. Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.
  6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next 1/2 cup. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the melted white chocolate and beat on medium speed until incorporated. With the mixer on low, add in heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time and beat at medium speed until the frosting has reached your desired consistency.

Source

source: adapted from How Sweet It Is

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DIY: Taco Seasoning
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Taco Seasoning

After posting about my taco night dinner plans on Facebook this week, I guess I had forgotten how much people love tacos.  Of the 9 people who responded to my question, 4 of them were also having tacos that night.  Is it safe to assume that an exponential number of people in the U.S. eat tacos on any given night for dinner?  Are you eating tacos?  OK so because I’m writing this post, I’m going to assume that you are eating tacos at some point so my bigger question should be, how are you making them?

There are of course, enough versions of tacos to come out of my ears but our most basic and favorite are the traditional American tacos grew up on…except now we use ground turkey breast instead of ground beef. (I won that battle.)  Browned meat with taco seasoning (formerly from a packet), diced up fresh tomatoes, a mound of leafy green lettuce, shredded Monterrey jack and/or sharp cheddar cheese, a powerful hit of red onions, and a few dollops of cool heaven…errhmm…sour cream are what you’ll find in our house on taco night.  As far as the vessel goes, we’re split – Kyle loves crunchy corn taco shells while I lean more towards high-fiber flour tortillas.

Taco Seasoning

But what really makes tacos tacos is the seasoning and up until 2 or 3 years ago, we were using the packets from the spice aisle at the grocery store when I actually looked at the sodium content on the package and almost had a figurative stroke.  We immediately switched over to a salt-free mix from Penzeys which was ok but it was missing something – ummm, salt – and I found that I was just adding too much to achieve the right taste.  This taco seasoning recipe was conveniently attached to the creamy taco mac that we adore and it was only natural for us to use the seasoning on regular tacos since the taco mac is such a big hit around here.  The recipe below yields enough for four batches of tacos (using 1lb ground meat per batch) but you can easily double or triple the amounts to save yourself some time in the future.  You can find all of the ingredients in your local grocery store but I highly recommend checking out places like Penzeys or The Spice House to arm yourself with larger quantities at much lower prices than you’ll find in the grocery store.

DIY: Taco Seasoning

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: about ½ cup (enough for approx. 20 servings of tacos)

A homemade taco seasoning without packaged preservatives and artificial ingredients. Make your own in just 5 minutes with regular pantry ingredients and keep it on hand for when Taco Tuesdays roll around!

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small jar or airtight container.
  2. To use: Use 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons of taco seasoning in place of a packet of store-bought taco seasoning. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup cold water and stir to dissolve cornstarch. In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, brown 1lb ground beef, turkey or chicken, add seasoning and cornstarch-water mixture, and simmer over low heat until liquid has thickened.

Source

adapted from Delish and Allrecipes

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Homemade Moon Pies
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Mars Pies

On a chilly and rainy day atypical of early June here in New England, I tackled one hell of a baking recipe.  A seemingly benign recipe entitled Mars Pies (they really are Moon Pies) lay ahead of me but little did I know (because why would I read a recipe in advance of when I plan to make it?), Rebecca Rather recommends making the recipe in stages over the course of two days.  Pssshaw.  With a forecast full of showers, what else is there to do on a Saturday with a silent house all to myself?  Bake the day away, of course!

Softball Stage Sugar

A rack full of graham cookies, a mixing bowl brimming with mocha caramel ganache, and a stand mixer whirring around my first batch of homemade marshmallow later, my kitchen was full of life.  All pulled together, these three components could be likened to a batch of grown-up s’mores but instead, when coated with a final glaze of rich bittersweet chocolate, the end result was a decadent sandwich cookie that tugs at your memory and begs for a glass of cold milk.  These Moon Pies will pull you back to those long summer days, chocolate melting onto your fingers, the sprinkler in the front yard as your only savior from the insipid humidity.  They are a meal unto themselves but at the same time, satisfy every ounce of chocolaty-ooey-gooey-marshmallow cravings you could ever have.

Mars Pies
As Shawnda chose this recipe for this week’s Project Pastry Queen, I can only imagine what her summer days are like in Texas.  I don’t envy her as we plunge deeper into the belly of the summer oven (even though I was insanely jealous in February when she was planting her seedlings!), but we have one thing in common: these Moon Pies.  They are the ties that bind.  For a few great tips and to see everyone’s takes on these Moon Pies, be sure to check out this post – I especially loved Shawnda’s tip to whip the marshmallow filling for 2-3x longer than the recipe says and then pour the remaining filling into a pan to set for marshmallows.  Homemade marshmallows = heaven!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
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After posting last week about what I suspect may be the one and only peanut butter cookie recipe I’ll need for the rest of my life, I don’t want you to think today that I’m contradicting myself by posting these cookies today.  And I certainly don’t want to confuse you with too many peanut butter cookie recipes here at Smells Like Home.  But these peanut butter cookies are beasts in my cookie world.  Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies: where peanut butter meets oats and the two adopt a fluffy cloud of peanut butter filling into the family.

A soft and chewy peanut butter oatmeal cookie reminiscent of the Girl Scouts’ Do-Si-Dos and old-school Nutter Butters, the oats add an adoringly nutty flavor to a cookie that houses two of my very favorite ingredients.  And while they are soft, they also remain sturdy enough to handle the role of a sandwich cookie.  We all know there’s nothing worse than sandwich cookies that crumble through your fingers and leave your hands full of frosting, especially when you’re eating them in front of other people and it’s just too embarrassing to lick the misguided frosting from your hands (just saying…).  There are none of those worries involved with these cookies because the gobs of peanut butter filling are nestled safely within.  I can assure you that even if you choose not to make the filling (blasphemous!), these peanut butter oatmeal cookies are perfect on their own.  The recipe only yields at 18 sandwiches so if you’re baking them for a crowd or an upcoming summer BBQ, I would at least make an extra half-batch because there’s no stopping the love people will have for these cookies – will power will play a strong role after you set them out!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
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I’ve had a prejudice against pies for years.  Admittedly, a pie maker I’m not.  I can’t pinpoint the reason for this prejudice but it’s been lurking around my kitchen.  Lurking like your slightly off-kilter college roommate does when your suite is brimming with friends.  And like this college roommate situation, it’s unnerving.  I want to make pies.  I’ve seen some jaw-droppingly gorgeous pies around the blogs for years and yet each summer passes by without the sign of a pie on Smells Like Home.  I’m sorry that I’ve been a wimp.  I’m working on it.

This strawberry rhubarb pie is the first plunge I’ve taken into pie making this summer.  I hope you like it.  I loved it.  I pulled the strawberry rhubarb filling together in about 5 minutes and the dough took even less time to make.  Shockingly easy.  Not ever having had rhubarb, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the flavor but it blended so beautifully together with the strawberries – a little tart and a little sweet with a pie crust that made me burst with pride when I took my first taste.  Judging by my 92-year-old grandmother’s ecstatic reaction this pie, and considering she has vivid memories of slimy rhubarb that her mother used to boil to all hell, I’d say that this pie is a resounding success.  I’ve invested in a pie cookbook to assist me through the summer and after this strawberry rhubarb triumph, there will definitely be more pies to come soon.

Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies
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There are few things in this lifetime that I will ever turn down.

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Don’t offer me pizza while I’m counting WeightWatchers Points.  Trouble.

homemade NY bagels 1

The smell of a bag full of hot NY bagels make my knees go weak.  And if you throw in some of that whipped up bagel shop cream cheese, I’m in double trouble. Don’t even try to convince me that it’s Philadelphia.

peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies make me want to belly up the kitchen table with a glass of ice cold milk.

See, peanut butter, in my house growing up, was something that was worshiped and it’s something that is still worshiped today, both in my house and in my parents’ house.  In fact, I just had a conversation with my mom this past weekend during a stroll through one of those warehouse stores where the peanut butter comes in mammoth-size two packs.  It’s like they know. My mom exposed in a very serious tone, with an even more serious face, that they were down to their last jar of peanut butter.  It was panic mode.  What if they ran out??

Before you run out of peanut butter, you must make these cookies.  For the past couple of years, I’ve had a favorite recipe – don’t we all?  They are two-bite wonders.  These honey roasted peanut butter cookies are ten-bite humdingers.  These peanut butter cookies are ones with chopped honey roasted peanuts studded throughout.  They are cookies where the peanut butter hits you like a charging bull.  Choose the large cookie scoop to dole out the dough and you’ll get the soft, doughy cookies that are throw-backs to your high school cafeteria.  (Weren’t the soft cookies the best thing to come out of the cafeteria?)  They are the kind of peanut butter cookies that can stand on their own but if you think they need a little help, add a dollop of jelly to the centers before you bake them.

Sarah’s got the full recipe posted so be sure to jump on over to 20 something cupcakes to have a look.  You’ll want to make a full recipe – why would you not want extra dough in the freezer?  Using the aforementioned big scoop, I got about 2 1/2 dozen dough balls, most of which I froze.  (The full recipe yields about 6 1/2 dozen smaller cookies.) So go ahead…stock up on that peanut butter because you’ll need it for these cookies.

Shrimp Tacos/Quesadillas with Mango Salsa
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Shrimp Tacos

After posting 3 different bar recipes in the past week, it’s definitely time to lighten things up a little around here.  These tacos and salsa are definitely a better indicators of how we’ve actually been eating recently and the meal such a great way to balance out some of the sweet stuff.   These shrimp tacos are light, super quick, and mucho healthy.   Shawnda actually chose them for her PPQ choice a few weeks ago but I wasn’t really “feeling” them back then.  And I’m not sure why because I knew they would be awesome…which, of course, they were.  I changed things up just a little, using ancho chile powder on the shrimp instead of cayenne and omitting the peppers, onions, and Worcestershire sauce. After an easy sauté, the shrimp are left with a hint of spice but combine perfectly with the cool mango salsa.  Top the tacos with a little lime sour cream (a little lime zest and juice mixed with sour cream) and you’ve got yourself a great meal!

In case you’re wondering about WW PointsPlus (as some of you have asked about), each taco consisted of 3 shrimp on a regular 6″ flour tortilla with about 1 tsp of shredded cheddar (not including sour cream) and was 5 Pts – the mango salsa is free.  Not too shabby!  I actually had quite a bit of salsa left over after only using 1/2lb of shrimp so I made another batch of shrimp yesterday morning while I was running around getting ready for work (roasted them at 425 degrees F for 8 minutes) and ate just the shrimp (9 shrimp) and salsa as a 2 Pt lunch yesterday – score!!

Shrimp Tacos/Quesadillas with Mango Salsa

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    For the salsa:
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • ½ small red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup Thai-style sweet chile sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • For the tacos:
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 8 small (6-inch) tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions

  1. To make the salsa: Combine the mango, jalapeno, onion, lime juice, salt, chili sauce, garlic, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or until ready to serve.
  2. To make the tacos: Rub the shrimp with chile powder and salt. In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, heat oil and saute the shrimp 3 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they curl and turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the heat and serve the shrimp hot in warmed tortillas with mango salsa and cheese.

Source

source: adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Recbecca Rather

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Sticky-Fingers Bars
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The Project Pastry Queen group has baked and cooked through quite a bit of The Pastry Queen already but somehow, the section towards the back of the book has been neglected.  It’s a little section devoted to treats for kids and though there aren’t little kids in our house, it doesn’t mean that the big kids here can’t enjoy some of the good stuff!  These Sticky-Fingers Bars have intrigued me since I first bought the book and when my turn rolled around again to choose a recipe, I honed in on this one.

Snickers bars, peanut butter, peanuts (both baked into the crust and as a topping), and chocolate are the main players in these bars…how could they not be fantastic?  I think Shawnda may have done a little happy dance when she read my choice. :) Step-by-step you’ll work your way through the recipe: peanut-laden crust, sliced Snickers bars, ooey-gooey caramel filling, peanut butter, more peanuts, and finally a healthy drizzle of bittersweet chocolate.  You’ll have to fight the urge to bust into them during the chill period in the fridge but trust me…trust me…you’ll forget about all the steps and lose yourself in candy bar heaven with the first bite.

Next week on the PPQ menu is another sweet treat so be sure to check it out!

Strawberry Crumb Bars
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Strawberry Crumb Bars

Please don’t yell at me for posting another delightful dessert recipe this week – I just can’t help myself!  First the blackberry oatmeal pie bars, now these strawberry crumb bars.  Either of the two would be an outstanding choice for your next reason to make dessert but let me tell you a little secret behind these here bars…it’s not strawberry season yet here in New England. In fact, we’ve got another month to go before any picking goes on but the great thing about strawberries shipped in from Florida in the middle of April is that in spite of the fact that you know they’re not local and thus don’t taste nearly as fantastic as local strawberries do, they’re still damn good in these crumb bars.  The strawberries are baked into the form of a buttery hand-held crumble and are truly irresistible.  They soften and sweeten into everything you long for in a summer strawberry – need I say more?  I made a half-batch and brought them to a meeting with some of my staff at work and there may have been a couple of people who took a few extra bars in napkins just in case they went before seconds could be claimed.  Not that I was watching or anything…but doesn’t every food blogger have an eye on the food to see how quickly it disappears? Gosh, I hope I’m not the only one.

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Yield: 9-12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks (½ lb) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 13×9 inch pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the baking powder and flour. Mix in the salt and the lemon zest, and stir together with a fork. Cut in the butter and egg with a pastry blender (or two knives if you don’t have one) until the largest chunks are about pea-sized. The mixture should be crumbly without much loose flour. Spread about half of the dough mixture in an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan and press down firmly to form the bottom crust.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the strawberries with a rubber spatula until combined. Spread the berry mixture evenly over the bottom crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the berries. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Source

source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Annie’s Eats

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Elly’s World Famous Black Beans
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Elly's World Famous Black Beans

World Famous Black Beans? Really?  Well, why not?  My friend Elly at Elly Says Opa! created this black bean recipe ages ago and before making it, I had only heard rave reviews about it.  And folks, those reviews are justified.  These black beans really are quite fabulous and they are super easy to put together.  They’ll cook in about 15 minutes on the stove top and I was able to throw them together while I was waiting for my favorite chicken enchiladas to bake up in the oven.  Unlike the black beans served in Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants, you’ll have control over the texture of the beans.  I prefer my beans to be more on the mashed side like these refried beans with bacon but you can definitely mash them less and leave more whole beans – it’s up to you.  As far as the flavor goes, shall I venture to say they were world-famous worthy?  All of my favorite flavors of cumin, chili powder, and cilantro combine with my favorite Mexican food add-in (the black beans) to make the this a star side dish that I’ll continue to make over and over.  And with Cinco de Mayo now just over two weeks away, you can bet that these beans will be on my menu that night!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
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I’m always looking for the next great breakfast recipe – and if it’s portable, it’s even better.  I know I just posted about this fabulous NY crumb cake: perfectly portable in and of itself, right?  However, while it pairs like peanut butter and jelly with a cup of Joe in the morning, I see crumb cake as the “can we stop by this afternoon?” sort of cake sort of cake.  But I digress. 

This cinnamon pull-apart bread is the sort of thing that makes you excited to get out of bed on a Saturday morning.  It’s butter, cinnamon, and sugar sandwiched between horizontally stacked pieces of yeasted bread.  Needless to say, it’s amazing.  And aside from being totally portable (cool, remove from pan, place on a plate, and wrap it up), you can whip up the dough the night before you need the bread and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  I love getting up early on a weekend morning and working with dough that’s ready to go – no fussing with measurements through bleary, sleepy eyes is always a plus! I ended up bringing this loaf to my girlfriend’s busy newborn- and toddler-filled house for breakfast along with a fruit salad a couple of weekends ago and it was a really nice way to catch up with a great friend.

Note: The instructions below may seem a little complicated as you read them so be sure to check out either Annie’s or Joy’s tutorials in case you need a visual!

Stovetop Chicken Fajitas
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I’m not the type of blogger who makes a recipe and runs to my computer to blog about it.  I usually have a list of 10 or so things backed up to be blogged about over the course of a few weeks…new items get added to said list (I keep it as a Stickie so it’s always quickly accessible) almost as quickly as they drop off when I blog about them.  But folks, today, I’m breaking my own “rules.”  Kyle and I made these chicken fajitas last night for dinner and we loved them so much that I couldn’t bear to keep them a secret from you.  I seriously gushed about them all night long, got sad when I packed them up for our lunches today, and got giddy again when I remembered there were still leftovers for lunch today.

The technique to making these fajitas isn’t really any different from my usual fajitas: sauté peppers and onions, remove from the pan, cook the protein, slice and serve.  What puts them completely over the top is the sauce the chicken is cooked in.  It’s a unlikely combination of orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro, and garlic but the flavors combine and cook down into this amazing sauce that you’ll drizzle over the chicken, peppers, and onions before serving.  I had been dying to make grilled chicken fajitas this week but since our grill is still out of commission since it took a nose-dive when our deck collapsed this winter, I opted for this recipe instead and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to try the other recipe.  This one is just too much of a good thing to pass on next time I’m craving fajitas!


New York-Style Crumb Cake
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NY-Style Crumb Cake

I am always on the hunt for a great crumb cake recipe and since crumb cake is a pretty big thing to this [former] New York girl, finding just the right recipe is really important to me.  See, I watched many a crumb cake pass through the hands of family and friends while I grew up.  It was the dessert of choice to bring to someone’s house when you were going for coffee and usually it was an Entemann’s cake.  When Entemann’s came out with their “Ultimate Crumb Cake” years ago, it was the best thing since sliced bread -  loads of big crumbs with a fresh and soft yellow cake underneath is what has driven people crazy for years and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve found a recipe that meets my high expectations.

Cook’s Illustrated has pulled together a super easy and fantastic recipe for this beloved cake and I’m so excited to share it with you today!  The use of cake flour instead of all-purpose flour yields a beautifully soft cake that puffs up underneath the always sought-after cinnamon crumb topping.  And about those all-important crumbs…I’ve made plenty of crumb cakes where I’ve needed to increase the amount of topping the recipe calls for (as I’m making the recipe which is so frustrating!) because well, shouldn’t the topping fully cover the batter? With this recipe, there are plenty of crumbs to go around for everyone and the recipe perfectly balances the amount of crumbs with the amount of cake underneath.  It’s these types of things that make finding a great crumb cake recipe so critical and when you found the right one, you know it. This one is definitely worthy of a pot of coffee.

New York-Style Crumb Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Make sure you use cake flour for this recipe - all-purpose flour will yield a dry and tough cake. A few people have commented that their crumbs have sunken into the cake - the key to keeping the crumbs on top is to gently lay them out on top of the batter - do not push them down. This recipe yields an 8x8-inch crumb cake but you can easily double the recipe using a 9x13-inch pan.

Ingredients

    For the crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. To make the topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. To make the cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325° F. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces between your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Source

source: Cook's Illustrated May 2007

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Rosemary Asiago Focaccia
9

This post has been a long time coming.  Since before I started baking any kind of bread, I’ve wanted to make focaccia.  The puffy center and slightly crisp crust of freshly baked focaccia has always excited me.  Yet it’s terrified me at the same time.  How could what I make ever compare to the greatness of some focaccia I’ve eaten?  Folks, that’s what learning to cook and bake is about.  It’s about trying out new things, hoping they come out the way you want, and trying again if they don’t.  Fortunately for me, this focaccia was everything I had hoped it would be.

IMG_0424

Since this Italian bread is as much of a blank canvas as pasta is, the possibilities for toppings (or even fillings!) are only as restricted as your imagination.  I topped my first loaf with chopped rosemary and Asiago cheese and served it alongside spinach lasagna and a green salad.  Nothing fancy, just good, homey Italian food for a Sunday night supper.  The focaccia was beyond my expectations and half of the loaf was easily gone after a dinner with four people.  Even after we had finished eating and were sitting at the table chatting before the dishes were cleared, we were still stealing pieces to munch on from the bread basket.  The rosemary lends some really great flavor to the bread and the powerful Asiago is the perfect complement to the punch of the fresh rosemary.  While from start to finish, this focaccia takes nearly 20 hours to make, almost all of the time is inactive, and the overnight starter is a key component to the final flavor, so don’t skip that step.  You’ll be able to find plenty of things to do during the inactive starter/rise/proof time like sleep, make scones, hummus, toffee bar brownie torte, and spinach lasagna.  Sunday was a very busy day for me in the kitchen but it was topped off with a very special accomplishment: my first focaccia.