Friday, July 31, 2009

Ice Cream Roundup

My ice-cream contest that I was thinking of doing this summer didn't materialize but I'm participating in a "Recipe Round Up" where people link to their ice cream recipes. I've posted this in the past but it's a good one for summer. Maybe in this ice cream round up, I'll find the chai tea or green tea ice cream recipes I've been wanting . . .

Spiced Apple Frozen Yogurt (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

1 1/2 cup of apple sauce (I used the chunky kind with spices but no added sugar)
2 cups Greek yogurt (I used the kind with honey added from Trader Joe's)
1 T whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 c. sugar (optional - I like it tart so I leave it out)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few hours until you're ready to make the frozen yogurt. Then, just pour it in your ice cream maker according to your model's instructions.

I think it's best to make frozen yogurt right when you want to eat it - the texture isn't great if it's put in the freezer after it's made.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Again inspired by the Food Librarian's post, I was excited to make these cupcakes this weekend. Paula and I had fresh zucchini from the Eugene Saturday Market and we made an entire batch - yes, 24 cupcakes. She was hosting a book club on Sunday night so her friends got to enjoy our efforts but I'm embarrassed to tell you how many we ate between the time we made them and that book club meeting.

The original recipe is from Martha Stewart's cupcake book but we left out the walnuts, substituted lemon zest for orange zest, used olive oil instead of canola, and freshly ground our own cloves. The texture was great and if you don't like zucchini bread, you'll probably still love this. The zucchini makes them really moist and Paula was making cream cheese frosting before her book club - everything is good with cream cheese frosting on top!

When I asked Paula how the cupcakes were, told me that they were talking about death and the holocaust when the cupcakes were being eaten and one girl said she wanted to yell out "these are amazing" but didnt think it would be appropriate.

I don't have anything very new or interesting to say in the debate about the differences between cupcakes and muffins, but I agree that qualifies for cupcake status. One thing we tried that I had never done before was use the foil muffin liners on a baking sheet (instead of in a muffin tin). I've seen on the container that you can do that but have always been a little chicken. The result was that those cupcakes weren't perfectly round but it worked great!

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes (2 dozen)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup olive oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups packed grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest until well blended; whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Stir in zucchini, then add flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

Frosting options: You can make a cream cheese frosting or a powdered sugar icing for the top to make them like real cupcakes but I enjoyed them plain!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eating in Eugene

This weekend, my daughter and I went to visit my sister in Eugene, Oregon. Trip highlights included a Friday sunset visit (with free wine tasting) to Sweet Cheeks Winery, my first experience with liege waffles, cooking with my sister, enjoying the beautiful outdoors and great conversation.

In case you're ever in Eugene, here are a few things you should check out.

Off the Waffle - the front of a house was converted into this breakfast / late night spot (can you say munchies??). I learned that liege waffles are one type of belgian waffle where chunks of sugar in the batter make the outside of the waffle similar to a glazed doughnut. You could pick fillings and the waffles were thick enough to be sliced and stuffed. I had the original stuffed with dried rainier cherries and walnuts. For $3, I'm glad I don't live in Eugene because I'd have to resist temptation on a daily basis.

Saturday Market - one of the coolest farmer's market that I've been to. In addition to typical farmer's market fare, there were tie dyed clothes, lots of pottery and wood crafts, and macrame.

The produce was beautiful and here's what we made for dinner with our bounty:

Roasted Veggies and Brown Rice (2 servings)

Take a bunch of veggies (we used a smallish eggplant, a zucchini, some cherry tomatoes, the kernels of one ear of corn, half of a walla walla onion, several garlic cloves, one bell pepper, one small sweet potato) and cut them into similar size pieces (ours were about 1-2 inch chunks). Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and red chili flakes. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Toss in chopped fresh basil and serve over hot brown rice.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Eggs from my childhood

My aunt in Connecticut would make this egg dish and I think it's from a church cookbook. My mom probably knows the other name of this but I can't remember it. I've changed the original recipe a little bit (halved the butter and increased the eggs) and I still love it. My daughter was calling it "puffy eggs" this morning and the puffy corners are the best part! It's sort of like a German pancake but a savory version. You can leave out the seasonings or substitute something different for the mustard and paprika. I usually grind some fresh pepper over the top.

Puffy Egg Casserole (Serves 4)

2 T butter
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
3 eggs
1/4 c. grated cheese
1/4 c. chopped cooked bacon (or diced ham or turkey)
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the butter in an 8x8 pan and let it melt in the oven. Mix the flour and milk together. Beat in the eggs, mustard, and paprika. Pour the batter in the pan and sprinkle the cheese and meat over it. Bake it for 15 minutes or until the corners are puffy and light brown and the eggs are set. Serve it hot out of the oven.

Our littlest food critic gave it 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Tonight I'm hosting a meeting at my house. Someone else is bringing dinner and I decided to make a dessert. Lately, most of my baking has been kid-friendly cookies, quick muffins, or cakes that come together in one bowl. But after seeing the gorgeous photos on Food Librarian's blog a few weeks ago, I decided to flex my baking muscle a little bit and go for something more challenging. I'm not always up for the extra steps of separating eggs or arranging fruit in a decorative manner but baby girl was sleeping and I had a good time making this.

Since you can look at the Food Librarian's post for much more beautiful pictures than I can ever take, I'll instead share with you my inner baking monologue.

While the cake was in the oven: Did I beat those egg whites enough? They seemed stiff and if I beat them longer and they got to be dry, there would be no going back, right? Well, I could have started over with new egg whites but that is really wasteful. Speaking of waste . . . is anyone going to like this? Maybe this group is more the chocolate cake crowd and I shouldn't have bothered with something like this. Shoot . . . here's a bunch of the flour mixture that I spilled on the counter without realizing. How much difference does a couple of teaspoons make in baking? Probably a lot. What am I going to make if this is a disaster and I don't want to serve it? I must have a cake mix around here somewhere. Boy, there are a lot of dirty bowls from this recipe. Better get the dishes done before naptime is over

When the cake came out of the oven: I'm a genius! This is beautiful and everybody is going to love it. Okay, maybe not, but even if they hate it, my husband will cover it in Ben and Jerry's and love it. There's no way I'm making anything else today. I'm glad someone is bringing dinner.

If you want to try it, here's the Recipe on Epicurious. The only changes I made were using 1/2 tsp. almond extract and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract instead of all vanilla and I used a 3 inch deep springform pan instead of a cake pan.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Few Good Recipes

There are a few food items I've been trying to make and I'm not in love with the recipes I've been using. If you can help me out, feel free to send me a recipe at and let me know if I can share it on this blog.

#1 - Homemade granola bars. I want to make these without white flour or sugar and the last version I made with honey and peanut butter was yummy but crumbly and dry.

#2 - Chai tea or Green tea Ice Cream. I had ambitions of having an ice cream contest this summer but I'm not sure if it will materialize. In the meantime, these are the two types of ice cream that I want to learn to make.

#3 - Gazpacho. Lisa suggested this to me awhile ago. Again, I have a mediocre recipe that I'm a little tired of (I go back an forth about whether it tastes like soupy salsa or gazpacho) so if you have something great, please share!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chili Verde

I usually don't think much about my crock-pot in the summer since I don't make soup and we do a lot of grilling but I'm using it this week to keep the oven off. I have a few favorite slow cooker recipes and this one is really easy and really tasty. Now, I know there are a lot of ways to make chili verde and I have respect for roasting chiles and tomatillos and making fresh sauce, so I readily admit that this recipe is a cheater short cut. If you have Trader Joe's near you, their salsa verde is perfect for making this.

Start by putting 2 cups of salsa verde in the crock pot and stir in one 4oz can of chopped green chiles (or jalapenos). Then, add 4 boneless skinless chicken pieces. Breasts work fine but I am using half chicken breasts, half chicken thighs today. Cook it on high in your crock pot for 4 hours (you can cook it longer on low and may have to adjust times based on your particular slow cooker - mine cooks really fast). After the initial time, use a fork to shred the meat in the crock pot. If the meat won't shred, you need to cook it longer. Add another 1/2 cup of the salsa, 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 can of white beans (like cannelini, drained and rinsed), and stir it all together. Cook on high for 30 more minutes.

Sprinkle it with a little cotija cheese and cilantro and eat it over hot cooked rice or in a warm tortilla . . . yum! This makes about 4 servings.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer craving?

Have you ever brought produce home and had no idea why you bought it or what you were going to make with it? Usually when that happens to me, I'm at farmer's market and some seasonal fruit or vegetable looks so good that I can't pass it up. The other day, I came home from Ralph's with sweet potatoes - not in season, not particularly beautiful, and no agenda for eating them any time soon. Maybe it was those brownies in the past few weeks that made me think of sweet potatoes. Or, which seems strange, maybe I'm craving winter foods in the middle of summer.

We were going to barbecue steaks for meat that night and I couldn't stand the thought of heating my oven just to bake some sweet potatoes so I came up with an alternative - put them together with some rice. I thought the earthy nuttiness of brown rice and would go well with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. The result was nutritious and looked pretty but more bland than earth-shattering. I think next time I'd leave out the thyme and go with a bolder spice - maybe curry powder or cumin. This would make a nice vegetarian main dish with the addition of more veggies (zucchini and fresh peas come to mind).

I have one more big, fat sweet potato left and I'm going to use it in a spinach salad that I'm making for dinner tonight. My plan is to slice it into thin wedges, toss it with a little oil, a little apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and roast it in the oven on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. I'll also put some sliced onion, hard boiled egg, some red bell pepper, and shredded carrots in the salad.

Sweet Potato Brown Rice Pilaf (4 servings)

1/2 c. onion, diced
1 1/4 c. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 c. brown rice
1 1/3 c. broth or water
1 tsp. thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil

Saute onion in 1-2 tsp. olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add a little more oil and the sweet potatoes and saute for 4 minutes. Add the rice and saute 1 minute. Add broth and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40-45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and the sweet potato is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today my friend's daughter (who became my daughter's new BFF) came over and one of our activities was baking together. I wanted to make something that they could help me with, something they'd both like to eat afterwards, and something that was a little healthy. I had some really ripe bananas so I thought of this recipe that I wanted to try. I made some modifications (it's from Cooking Light 7/09) to reduce the sugar and white flour.

The end result was a lot of fun and a cookie with good texture and a sweet flavor. The next time, I'd add chopped walnuts (or substitute them for the chocolate chips).

Friends even do the dishes!

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies (2 dozen)

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325° for 12-14 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Parkway Grill

For our 8th anniversary, we had dinner at Parkway Grill on Monday night. I haven't been there in a few years but we frequent other Smith Brothers establishments and Parkway did not disappoint. I've sometimes joked that one of my spiritual gifts is ordering off a menu and I struggled last night to make my choice - everything looked so good. But, here's what was for meat:

For appetizer, we had the flatbread with pears, walnuts, and cambazola cheese. Then, we shared a roasted beet salad with Humboldt Fog, micro arugula, and candied hazelnuts. I had one of their daily specials - halibut over parmesan risotto and ratatouille with a sweet chili sauce and my husband had a Kobe rib-eye with basil mashed potatoes and baby carrots. Dessert was amazing. Him - meyer lemon tart with meringue and pistachio ice cream. Her - s'mores with homemade marshmallows, dark chocolate, thin graham crackers over vanilla bean and raspberry sauces.

Recently, I heard that Parkway was doing a cooking class featuring ingredients from their Organic Garden that's on their property (you can see it from Marengo better than from Arroyo) but by the time I called, it was full. Has anyone gone to this?

At dinner, part of our romantic musings was our list of top Pasadena restaurants. A couple of our favorites are Derek's, Cafe Verde, Celestino, Sushi Roku, Gale's, and Smitty's. What are your favorite Pasadena restaurants?