Monday, April 30, 2012

Brilliant Brunch: Tuscan Lime Muffins

Hola!  The Growing Foodie is going South of the Border this week to Mexico!  John and I both love Tex-Mex and Mexican food; in fact, I estimate we probably eat it almost once a week.  When I think about all the new recipes I've made in the last three weeks of being in my apartment, Mexican food is a substantial amount of them.

Our recent Mexican kick fell in line perfectly with Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, one of my favorite holidays (you know I love my margaritas!).  In the spirit of the holiday, I couldn't wait to put together some of my favorite Mexican-style treats for you.  Plus, I hope giving these to you over the next few days allows you the time to go shopping for your own fabulous fiesta this weekend!

What better way to get started than with breakfast right?  Don't worry, I am long past the days where alcohol was a good way to start the day!  No, these are just the perfect muffins to start a fiesta-themed weekend though!  They have that lime zing that I immediately associated with cinco de mayo!  Even if your family doesn't love mexican food, I think these lime muffins will still be a smash hit!

The Cooking Light May issue had a lot of really interesting muffin recipes.  I love how this one uses ricotta which makes the muffins extremely light and fluffy.  They will be a very light color even when completely baked so this recipe is definitely a good one to have a toothpick tester.    

Tuscan Lime Muffins (adapted from Cooking Light - May Issue)
Serves:  12 (12 large muffins)
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 lime
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center.  Into another bowl, zest the lime (2 tablespoons) and then juice (1/4 cup).  Combine the zest and juice with ricotta, water, extra virgin olive oil, and egg in another bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.  Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened and combined.  Spoon batter into greased muffin tin until about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake about 15-18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

I found that the muffins were best in the first three days, so they are the perfect make-ahead brunch treat!  Especially to celebrate cinco de mayo!

Until the next time my oven is on..
Friday, April 27, 2012

Slow Cooking Suppers: Chicken Gyros

Finally, the piece de resistance!  I hope you have been enjoying my week of Greek "accompaniments".  But it's high time I share with you what inspired me to make those in the first place: this gyro recipe from Daily Unadventures in Cooking. 

I find the one downside to cooking in the crockpot is the amount of prep work you have to do in order to get it started.  My sister is smart and puts it together the night before, and puts the crockpot in the fridge.  But since this was the first time I used my NEW crockpot, I didn't want to chance cracking the pot going straight from the fridge to the heat.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts about this recipe was I cut the onions and tomatoes the night before and placed it in an airtight container.  The chicken went in frozen, and I completely forgot about it while at work.  Meanwhile, at home, John was sneaking pieces of chicken and texting me his eagerness to eat dinner!  If that isn't a winning dish, well, I don't know what is.
Chicken Gyros (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 large tomatoes, chopped (or, 8 ounces canned diced tomatoes)
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
2 chicken breasts, frozen (about 2/3 of a pound)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 lemon

In your crockpot, combine chicken broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, chicken, salt, and pepper.  Turn the crockpot on to low heat and cook for 6 hours, until chicken comes apart easily.  Using two forks, shred the meat and combine with the remaining liquid, tomatoes, and onions, in the crockpot.  Cut the lemon in half and juice over the chicken mixture.  Mix well.

Serve chicken, tomatoes, and onions, over homemade pitas and top with tzatziki sauce, if desired.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time-Out: Tzatziki Sauce

Seeing as the blog is Greek-themed this week, I wanted a sauce that felt rich and delicious but wasn't too stuffed with hidden calories, salt, and fat.  Even though I was trying to show John we could eat healthy, I wanted him to still enjoy our food.

Actually, I also wanted to enjoy our food.  It's nice that everything can be low-calorie, but if you keep missing the flavor, you will quickly go back to your old standby recipes.  That's where Skinnytaste came in!  Her skinny tzatziki was just the thing I needed to add!

This is even a great snack with the pitas I made (cook them a bit longer for pita chips as well).  It's unlike my normal dips (with cream cheese, lots of cheese, all cheese).

Tzatziki Sauce (adapted from here) 
Serves:  4 (1 cup of sauce)
6 ounces fat-free Greek Yogurt
2/3 cups cucumber, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped finely
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Combine the yogurt and cucumber in a small bowl.  Strain in a strainer (covered) over a large bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours (I did overnight).  After the yogurt-cucumber mixture has been strained, empty into a clean bowl.  Stir in garlic, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper.  Serve immediately.  To store, place in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 23, 2012

Time-Out: Homemade Pita Bread

First of all, a BIG happy 21st Birthday to my sister M!  For her birthday, I am making her a delicious, wonderful, amazing, I can't wait to show you kind of cake.  She is at school right now but when she returns home, she and all of you, will get some!  I know its tough to have your birthday (or really anytime) alone at school.  I hope she remembers how much we all LOVE her.  I can't wait to have her home for the summer!

The next two weeks, we're going to be traveling around the world through food.  I wish we were literally traveling the world over the next two weeks but alas, there are small things like work, school, and money that keep us from doing that, isn't there?

But, just because you can't go for a world adventure, doesn't mean you can't invite the world to your dinner table.   The recipes I have this week don't involve a lot of unknown ingredients; most of it could probably come right out of your pantry.  That's always my goal for international cuisines.  I hate spending $20 on a meal for 2 that comes out, well, just not so great. When I thought of making Greek food, I immediately thought, heck I can save the $4 on pita bread and make my own.  Do you ever have these thoughts?  Do they manage to backfire on you as much as me?  I hope not.

Unfortunately, I just really didn't plan enough time for them (i.e. we were having Greek dinner on Monday night and decided to make these Saturday which left Sunday night when I got home from Mom and Dads at 8.30 p.m. to roll and bake pitas).  Poor planning.  Making these babies is a lesson in TLC (a lesson I could always use a crash course on).  Because you need at least 8 hours for these to sit in the fridge and slow rise.  Then, there is the TLC of baking:  spritzing dough with water, letting them sit, rise, repeat.

But, alas, some of my pitas didn't rise; don't get me wrong-they still tasted amazing.  It just bummed me out to see flat pitas.  But then, an idea!  The ones that didn't rise, I cut into squares and baked longer for pita chips, which were great with Wednesday's recipe!

Homemade Pita Bread (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 pitas)
3 cups flour + 1/4 cup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 packet instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature


*WARNING:  These must sit at least overnight!  Do not attempt unless you have at least 8 hours until serving*
 In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for 1/4 cup of flour. With your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together.  Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Continuously scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)  Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.

Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before preheating.  Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.  Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.

Quickly place 2 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. If necessary, spritz each piece again immediately before baking.

Smitten Kitchen has a ton of tricks to getting your pitas to rise (mainly keeping the dough moist).  Here is my tip--do NOT roll these pitas out too big.  We're not making pizza dough here, people!  This was my major mistake.  I think a 4- to 6-inch pita is the perfect size.

It's hard to roll them out so trying to make them any bigger is a pain (a PITA, John jokes).  Why was I trying to make them as thin as possible?  It's a mystery, even to me; one that I might just blame on the late night.  The smaller I made the pitas, I found the better they puffed and the better they looked.  I hope this stops you from making the same mistake!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Rainbow Cookies

Do you know what happens when you take one Mom, one Blogger, and a late Friday night to the food store?  The wrong ingredients.  Do you ever do this?  You go to the store; you want one ingredient (in this case apricot preserves).  The preserves are so expensive you choose the store brand instead; there are shelves of the store brand so you just pick up the closest one and head home to your pajamas and a movie.

Then, you actually try to make the recipe and you realize you bought sugar-free jam.  Ugh.  Luckily, in this case, it had no bearing on the end result—the cookies were fantastic anyway.  Mom usually tries to indulge the family favorites but rainbow cookies, a traditional Italian cookie (no wonder we love them), are the exception.  Our family clamors for them but Mom makes them about once every 3-5 years.

I’m not kidding; everytime she gets finished with them, and they are long gone (in about 1 night, let’s be serious), she promises to never make them again!  Apparently, her memory isn’t too good and she forgets how much she hates them, because a few years later, there she is, pulling out the old favorite.  They’re too good to swear off forever, but too time consuming to indulge in a couple times a year.  Make these for a special occasion; and then savor them.  A word to the wise, if you eat a dozen on the first night (like I might have), they will be gone.  And then you will be stuck with the memory of them until Mom gets up the strength to try again…in about 3 years.
 Rainbow Cookies (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (5 dozen cookies)
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.  Beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. 

In another bowl, beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, another 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and mix until just combined.  Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set and a toothpick comes out clean. (It is important to undercook so the cookies stay moist!  They may look like they’re not done, but the toothpick comes out clean.)
Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. (Alternately, you can do what I did: melt the chocolate 3.5 ounces at a time just to make sure it doesn’t seize up between steps, though that shouldn’t be a problem if you only let it set for 15.)
Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into 4 strips (I cut them into more, because I wanted them 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, as I remember them). Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.

Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

PS—you can make the colors whatever you want!  For a more spring-like color, mom used green and purple. instead of the traditional green and red.  Mix it up! 
Also, you can decrease the chocolate by half and only cover one layer of the cake which will be a little bit faster (Mom likes it best this way).  Of course, I always prefer double the chocolate!

Until the next time my oven is on…
Monday, April 16, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Original Nilla Banana Pudding

This recipe is such a classic dish (but always looks and tastes amazing!  My mom decided this would be a perfect ending to a Sunday night because my grandma, Awa, made this dish many times for their family when she was growing up.

In fact, Awa was shocked and delighted to see an old family favorite return to the kitchen table (for dessert...c'mon now.  We could technically eat this for breakfast seeing as it has banana in it though, right?).  Everyone enjoyed the banana pudding; in fact it reminded me of those banana pudding parfaits I had made John for his birthday. 

Filled with banana flavor, and so light, its a perfect dessert for spring / summer.  We tried it warmed (of course after I took some beautiful pictures) and then chilled.  I love it chilled and think it would taste amazing on a bright spring day; sort of like today was actually!  And guess what?  John is here!  Which makes any dessert just so much sweeter...

Original Nilla Banana Pudding
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3cup flour
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 bananas, thinly sliced


Mix 1/2 cup sugar and flour in top of a large double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water for 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Reserve 12 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard onto bottom of 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with layers of 1/3 each of the remaining wafers, bananas and remaining custard. Repeat layers 2 times.
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat egg whites on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over custard, sealing well to edge of dish.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve either warm or chilled (if chilled, place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour).

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, April 13, 2012

Date Night Dinner: Spinach Lasagna Rolls

You would think since I've moved 3 times over the past 6 months that I would get used to how tiring a move really is.  WRONG!  I am exhausted tonight; too exhausted to move, in fact.  Which is why I am wondering how to write a blog about delicious lasagna rolls...that take such a long time.
Don't get me wrong; they are about the same as normal lasagna.  You make the ricotta mix, you cook the noodles, and instead of stacking, you roll!  But, when you're on the floor of your empty apartment (because all of your furniture was left behind in the moving process from Boston to New York) and the sun is setting, and your living room has no lights, you really start to question if you EVER had the energy level to make these kinds of rolls.

I did; at some point I did.  I'm just having a hard time remembering that point right now!  And, lets just say that the effort was worth it; these lasagna rolls were a hit.  I loved that they were individually portioned (perfect for when company-or you-want leftovers) and relatively low in calories.  So you get to eat pasta without the guilt.  It's almost like having your cake and eating it too.  What I wouldn't do for some cake right now.  Quick glance around yields no cake, but maybe its time to take some of these rolls: to the microwave for dinner!
Spinach Lasagna Rolls (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 rolls)
12 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon garlic sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 glass or ceramic baking dish.  To make the rolls, place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles side-by-side. Take 1/4 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over each noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with eleven other noodles.  Top noodles with sauce and then add mozzarella cheese over each.  Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, until cheese melts and is slightly browned.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fancy Pants App: Zucchini Pizzettes

I realized its been a while since I made an appetizer for you all!  When Mom found her favorite blog, SkinnyTaste had these unique little zucchini pizzas, I couldn't help but want to make them for all of you!  I love zucchini so these were an easy choice, but even if you don't, they taste so much like a pop of pizza that all pizza lovers will gobble them up.

Just to give you an idea, every week on Sunday K&E visit Mom and Dad (and incidentally, me).  E is usually hungry by the time they get here so he spends the first 20 minutes of his visit rooting through the cabinets, refrigerator, even the freezer when opportunity calls for it.  So the two trays of Zucchini Pizzettes that came out of the oven were gone so fast, you would have no idea they were healthy!

According to Skinny Taste's nutritional facts, 4 Zucchini Pizzettes have the following:
Calories: 124.8 • Fat: 5.7 g Protein: 8.2 g Carb: 10.4 g Fiber: 3.0 g   
I adapted it slightly, but the above just shows that pizza can actually be good for you!  So try them out!  You have nothing to lose (except some weight maybe hehe).
Zucchini Pizzettes (adapted from here)
Serves: 6
6 ounce mozzarella, shredded
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 zucchinis, sliced thin (24 slices)
1/4 cup tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Combine the mozzarella, oregano, and garlic powder.  Set aside.   Top the zucchini slices with tomato sauce.  Top with mozzarella mixture.  Bake for 5-8 minutes, until cheese has browned.   

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 9, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Raspberry-Almond Swirls

Summer is coming!  Summer is coming!  I feel like this weekend more than any other, the trees, bushes, and flowers are practically shouting the inevitable march to the summer.  In the supermarket, berries are also taking over (which, as you know from reading my blog, I have NO PROBLEM with that!).

These swirl cookies aren't difficult to make, but they are time consuming!  I like to take a weekend to make them, since the dough can stay unbaked for a while.  Or, you can make a double batch--freeze one half of the dough for another time (which takes part of the work out of the equation).

The other nice thing--make these with whatever you have going on in your house.  I love the combination of raspberries and almonds.  But walnuts and blackberries, blueberries and pecans, the possibilities are really endless here!  And I don't think there's any better way to celebrate summer than with some berries!
Raspberry-Almond Swirls
Serves:  42 cookies (2 cookies per person)
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch

Toast the almonds first:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread the almonds out in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Toast for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring once, until fragrant.  Chop the almonds until finely chopped.  Pour the almonds into a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter, both sugars, and baking powder until fluffy (about 30-45 seconds).  Beat in eggs and almond extract for another 30 seconds.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Divide dough in half.  Cover and chill each dough piece at least one hour.  

Meanwhile, make the filling:  In a small saucepan, combine raspberry jam and cornstarch.  Heat and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbling.  Stir in reserved toasted almonds.  Cover and cool.  

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll one half of the dough between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11-inch square.  Spread half of the filling over the square, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the edges.  Roll up the dough into a spiral, pinching to seal.  Wrap log in wax paper and twist the ends to keep the dough closed.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Chill both doughs overnight (at least 4 hours).  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Cut chilled logs into 1/4 inch slices.  Place slices on the cookie sheet far enough apart not to touch.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until firm and lightly golden brown.  Let cool and serve immediately (or store in airtight containers for up to 5 days).

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Gorgonzola & Veggie Pizza

Homemade pizza was always a treat in our house; sure most weekends we got a pizza or two for our family, but the times when Mom would make her homemade pizza, well they are some of the best dinner memories I have.  Now that Mom and Dad really watch what they eat and take care of themselves, they treat themselves to pizza a whole lot less.  Not like John and I’s Friday night pizza nights that are practically a religion unto themselves at our house. 

Last week, Target had dishes on sale and Mom was all about buying herself some beautiful new pieces.  Of course, everyone thought the same thing and they were sold out everywhere.  We finally went to another store to find them (where they conveniently matched competitor prices).  Well right next to her dishes (I bet this was NOT a coincidence) was this gorgeous cast-iron pizza pan.  I had to have it.  I would have bought it, too, but the price stopped me. 

The price of it might have stopped me but pizza inspirations always stay with me!  When Mom had some leftovers on Saturday night, her and I threw together this delicious pizza.  I think I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating:  there is no such thing as a bad pizza.  You get cheese, crust, a sauce (or not) and you’ve got yourself an amazing dinner.  It just so happened that a lot of the ingredients we had were very seasonal and made a delicious dish.  Customize it with your family’s favorites.  Try going meatless!  I am the biggest fan of meatball and John loves his pepperoni but there’s something about such a fresh vegetable pizza that you don’t even miss the meat.  Plus, loading up each slice with veggies makes it so filling!  Cut the pie smaller and you have yourself a nice springtime appetizer!

Gorgonzola and Veggie Pizza
Serves:  3 (12-inch pizza)
1 Mom's Pizza Dough
2/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1 tomato, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out the pizza dough.  Top with half of the cheese; and the tomato.  Top with onion and garlic.  Then layer zucchini slices.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and oregano over the pie.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is nicely browned.  Serve hot.

Enjoy your springtime weekend!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Sheep Cupcakes

Yesterday was a great day!  It was Ben and Jerry's Free Cone Day!  It's just about my favorite day of the year.  Getting out of the office was a breath of fresh air, literally.  And, in my walk to ice cream, I realized that within the last few weeks, it really has become spring!

You know how I am a coupon queen?  Where else would I get it from but Mom?  So one week clipping coupons, Mom found a cute picture of Land O Lakes cupcakes.  We immediately pulled them out and started planning on making them for spring!  Of course, these would also be the perfect centerpiece to your holiday table (whether Passover, Easter, or otherwise).

I can't think of a better springtime activity for you and your kids!  If you don't have the time or want to be spending the time making cupcakes, feel free to substitute your favorite cake mix.  This recipe is less focused on the cake and more focused on the fun.  But cake and fun?  Well, that's just happiness; almost as much as free ice cream!
Sheep Cupcakes (adapted from here)
Serves: 24 (24 cupcakes)
Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk
Frosting:
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Decorations:
2 cups mini marshmallows
24 Gumdrops 
24 pairs of candy eyes

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar about 2 minutes, until light and foamy.  Gradually pour in the butter and vanilla while mixing constantly.  Slowly add half the dry ingredients stir until just combined.  Add all of the milk mixing until just combined.  Last, add the rest of the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into greased cupcake tins (or tins lined with cupcake liners).  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the centers of the cupcakes are clean when poked with a toothpick.  Let cool.

Combine frosting ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat until creamy. Frost cupcakes and place mini marshmallows onto the cupcake, pressing into the frosting.  To make a face, flatten gumdrops to 1/4-inch thickness, using your hand (or rolling pin).  Attach candy eyes and place the face onto the front of each cupcake.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, April 2, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Limoncello Cupcakes

K is on a fitness program through her work that rewards you for staying healthy.  This week’s nutritional fact was that you shouldn’t have caffeine after 2 p.m. (and that includes chocolate – so sad!).  Anyway, to get fit myself, plus to help K and our family stay on track, we decided to cut all chocolate out of this week’s Sunday dessert.  I immediately began hunting for a way to incorporate the leftover lemoncello from my wonderful lemon scones into a dessert that everyone would love.

Which left me with two lemons, and little else.  Then, I was struck by inspiration; at work (odd in and of itself) by listening to the guy who sits next to me talk to his girlfriend.  I wasn’t eavesdropping (much)—it’s a pretty open work environment and you can’t really have personal calls without everyone listening.  Plus, I’m just nosy.  His girlfriend is leaving for a new job across the ocean this weekend.  Knowing how hard I find the distance for John and I (and he is still on THIS side of the Atlantic), I knew that he would need a pick-me-up. 

This guy is one of the few at work I have entrusted with my blog and I know he’s rifled through some recipes over the past two weeks.  Mostly, I just hear about him drooling over the cupcakes or exclaiming about how much he loves cake.  It couldn’t be a coincidence that Brown Eyed Baker’s Limoncello Cupcakes popped up when I was on her site Friday.  No, I took it as a sign.  And I made them.  Not only did my family love them but I got to bring a little sweetness to a co-workers sour situation! 

And can I just tell you how much BETTER Limoncello made these?  We all know I love my alcohol but it brought a burst of lemon flavor through the cake that zest and juice just couldn’t.  Don’t skimp—you bake it out anyway.  If you DO want to skimp on the alcoholic icing (for the kids or yourself), add a few tablespoons of lemon juice instead.  You’ll still get the lemon flavor, without the alcohol. 
Limoncello Cupcakes (adapted from here)
Serves:  12
Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup limoncello

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 lemons

Frosting: 2 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup limoncello
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder; set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Zest and juice the lemons and add both to the mixture.  Mix on low speed until just incorporated. Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use or, frost cupcakes immediately and serve.


Until the next time my oven is on...
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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