Archive Page 2

Our Garden

tomato-flowerThis isn’t a recipe post of any kind.  But it should definitely still be considered a food post considering I am growing vegetables!  This is our garden that is growing bigger every day.

garden-1You will notice our lovely “homemade” fence.  We have the peskiest squirrels ever here in Charleston.  They are just that, pests!  They loved our garden from day one.  A place to bury their nuts and grab a bite on a plant in the process.

garden-2I did some research online and took advice from another blog to feed the birds and squirrels.  BIG MISTAKE.  Yeah, the birds were happy, but the squirrels proceeded to take the peanuts I put in the yard and bury them in the garden!!! AHHHHHH!!!  To top it off, they swung on a   that I hung outside of my kitchen window and it fell to the ground and broke.  Birdseed was everywhere!  The little punks loved it too.  They just sat around the circle of birdseed munching.  All I have to say is that I doused the spilled birdseed with cooking oil and a TON of cayenne pepper!  I hope their little hiney’s were on fire the next day.  🙂

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We then fenced in our garden allowing it to still be watered but hopefully to keep the birds and squirrels out.

Last week I walked out to inspect the garden and noticed that there were fresh holes around the tomato plants and pepper plants.  Funny, how are animals getting in when the garden is fenced?  Kevin decided to set up our web cam looking out the window facing the garden, so that we might catch some action.

Well, no need for that!  Later on that day when I was working out, I looked out the window and saw a squirrel eyeing our garden with a nut in his hand.  He was walking around the garden just staring at it.  He then proceed to lift the fence and crawl under with his nut in his mouth!!!  What the heck??  I then ran out the back door with a broom in my hand racing for garden.  Yep, crazy lady chasing a damn squirrel!

The squirrel went crazy!  After he realized that he was trapped in the garden with no where to go and no idea how to get out he started pouncing off each of the four posts holding up the fence to the garden.  He finally managed to weasel his way under the fence and get out before I had the chance to whack him.  Ugh, it would have given me great pleasure to whack him to.  How dare he chew on my plants and bury his pecan nuts in my garden!!

He proceeded to run up a tree and watch me…or his nut that he left behind on the ground.  I moved his nut a few feet away from my garden, ran inside and grabbed some bug poison, then doused his nut in poison.  Take that you punk! After I went back into the house, the squirrel proceeded to come back down the tree and circle my garden again.  I ran outside, let him have it again, then returned to the house.  He did this about two more times, then gave up.  Thank goodness!

See, I am not a violent or mean person, but if you mess with my garden and the possibility of growing my own vegetables I will get you!  Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

lettuce

Lucious Lemon Muffin Bites

lucious-lemon-poppyseed-muffinsKevin has an eating problem. Yes, you read that correctly. Not a drinking problem, but an eating problem.  They boy can’t eat anything without it falling off of his fork, squishing out of a bun, taco shell, or crumbling it to pieces.  The funny thing is that he gets so frustrated too.  He seriously thinks that either I or his food is out to get him.  I swear it takes him about three times longer to eat than I do.

Kevin also has another problem…eh…issue…whatever.  According to him he does not produce saliva when he eats.  Yes I know, just what you wanted to know, how much saliva he produces.  It is true.  He has to drink with about every bite unless what he is eating is a wet item.  I can’t understand this.  My mouth naturally produces more whenever I eat anything dry like bread.   I guess he is missing that gland? gene? whatever it is.  Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that these muffin bites are plenty moist and make him happy.

So on my quest to make his eating process more enjoyable and to hear less complaining, I decided to make bite sized muffins.  He can pop them in his mouth, there is no wrapper or fork to deal with and therefore no crumbs.  He can do this, right??

Lucious Lemon Muffin Bites

1 c. all purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

dash sea salt

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon poppyseeds

2 tablespoons decorating sugar

Method

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add poppy seeds to flour mixture.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed.  Blend well.

Add flour mixture alternately with lemon juice and zest, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Carefully fold egg whites into the lemon batter.

Fill greased mini muffin tins 2/3 way full and sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Bake 375 for 10- 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Source: Feast on This! recipe

Salmon Cakes

salmon-cakes

Salmon cakes have now become a “regular” meal in our house.  I used to shy away from salmon until recently after discovering all of the wonderful health benefits that salmon has to offer.  I have always been very picky about my seafood.  I love shrimp, crab, most mild white fish such as tilapia and flounder as well as mahi mahi, clams, and on occasion, scallops.  Salmon has never seemed to make the list.

I think my dislike of salmon stems back to an experience I had with it in college.  My mom told me that a cheap meal would be to buy a can of salmon, add some breadcrumbs, an onion, celery, egg, seasonings, and to make cakes.  I followed her directions and remember that it was gross!  I don’t know what I did wrong, but I never bought salmon since.  I think I threw it out and ended up eating cereal for dinner.

Recently I discovered salmon in the foil packages in the tuna aisle.  You know the ones I am talking about.  You don’t have to drain them and can pack them in your lunch.  Well I picked up a pack one night.  We tried the Chicken of the Sea brand.   It was phenomenal!  It was mild, flaky, and so moist when we cooked it up into cakes.  There website also has some great recipes that I am eager to try like salmon tacos!

Now that I know how great this brand tastes, I will definitely be buying more.   There was no messy clean up and I definitely didn’t get any fish juice on myself….definitely a bonus!  I think this salmon would taste great in a pasta salad or with fettuccine as well.  For now I leave you with a recipe.  Enjoy!

I followed their recipe on the back of the package making a few small changes in order to pack more veggies into our dinner.  You can find the original recipe at Chicken of the Sea.  Below you will find the recipe with my changes.

Easy Salmon Cakes

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (I used vidalia onions here as well)

1 stalk celery, finely chopped (my addition)

1 medium carrot, finely chopped (my addition)

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I subbed Oikos Greek Yogurt to add more protein)

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Dash cayenne pepper

1 tsp. onion powder (my addition)

Dash white pepper (my addition)

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger (my addition)

1 (7.1-oz.) pouch Chicken of the Sea® Premium Skinless & Boneless Pink Salmon Pouch

1 large egg, beaten

1 egg white (my addition)

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (I used 3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs in the cakes and sprinkled more on the outside)

3 Tablespoons butter (I used olive oil to pan fry with instead of butter)


Method

In a bowl combine seasonings, Greek yogurt, salmon, eggs, and lemon juice.  Set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, saute onion, celery, red pepper and carrot until just tender.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Add breadcrumbs to salmon mixture and stir.  Add cooled sauteed vegetables and mix thoroughly.  Chill mixture for 30 minutes.

In a saute pan over medium low heat add olive oil or butter.  Divide mixture into an even amount of cakes. Pat with a little additional panko, if desired. Once the pan is hot, add the salmon cakes and pan fry until golden brown.  Flip and continue to cook until golden brown on the other side.  It takes about 3-4 minutes per side.

This makes about 4 servings or 10- 12 small cakes.

Source: adapted from Chicken of the Sea

Good Intentions

a-sea-of-cake-popsSo I jumped on the wagon just like everyone here in blog world and made a form of cake pops and cupcake pops. Looking back on it, what the heck was I thinking?  Yes, they are cute and petite, but definitely not what I thought they would be. Let’s just say that I do not have the patience for these darn things.   Some of you who read this will not like my review, but I am entitled to my own opinion.  So be warned now that this is not a great review!

Aside from making them myself, I thought they would be something fun to send to my little sister to bake and make for Easter.  I sent her a package complete with candy coating, toppings, cupcake mold, etc.  She made them on Easter with our cousin, grandma, and my parents.  They all had a good laugh over decorating the cake pops agreeing that they did not taste very good.  I am glad that at least my gift was full of humor!

I started out with the intention of making the cake balls on the sticks, then when I realized what a pain in the rear they were, I decided to break out the candy mold and turn the remaining balls into cupcake form.   Not only do I feel like they were a waste of money, but they tasted like raw cake and were definitely not worth the effort.

easter-egg-pops

Here’s the review.  I decided to make one batch by a recipe I found on the web.  Everyone knows this recipe.  The one with a boxed cake mix, baked then cooled, crumbled up and the addition of your choice flavor of frosting.  I also made a batch with homemade cake and homemade frosting.  Well once you added the cake and frosting together, the ending result tasted like raw cake batter.  Yuck!  I even made sure not to add too much frosting.  Even though the homemade version tasted better, it was still not good. (If you notice, none of these cake pops are bitten into to show the inside.  I could not bear to bite down on them again after spitting mine out.)

mcc-cake-pops

Creme de Menthe cupcake pops (above).

On top of the nasty cake “dough”, you dip your cake ball in the candy coating of your choice.  Yum….partially hydrogenated goodness!!!   I knew this buying the candy coating, but never realized how horrible this stuff tastes.  Seriously like wax in your mouth.  For my homemade cake balls I chose to dip them in  real dark chocolate and real white chocolate…not the candy coating junk.  They tasted better, but you still bit into what tasted like raw cake.

row-of-cake-pops

So aside from the ending cake pops tasting like wax coated raw batter and chocolate covered homemade raw batter, they took forever! I could have assembled, crumb coated, and decorated three wedding cakes in the time it took to make these darn things.  Overall they looked cute and put a smile on everyones face that saw them.  My mother told me straight up that they were nasty.  A good friend of mine told me that they tasted like the cardboard cake box.  Everyone else smiled and said “oh, these are good!”.  Either they were being polite or they had no idea what good dessert tasted like.  Will I ever make them again?  Absolutely not.

Warm weather + long days = late blogging

Has it really been over a month?  Kevin just asked me the other day how the blog was.  Well, let’s see…we have been super busy, so updating the blog had been moved to the back burner.   It isn’t that I haven’t been making plenty of yummy meals or desserts…I have.  The fact of the matter is that it has been SO nice outside lately and has been staying light for so much longer at night that the last thing I have wanted to do is plop in front of the computer.  If you personally know me, you know how much I love to workout!  It is like eating great food.  I like it so much and I can never get enough of those endorphins.  Could you say that I am obsessed?  So now that we have this lovely spring weather + more daylight + swimsuit season approaching = running outside!

So to fill you in on the past month or so of our lives I will post many updates including our Easter (or lack of since I went to L.A.) as well as pictures from Kevin’s surprise 30th birthday party!  Yep, I surprised him.  After 3 months of planning too!!  Enjoy the pictures and the recipes that are to come in additional posts.

kevins-surprise-entranceYes his eyes are closed.  You gotta love my crappy camera. I mean, it functions, but there is a lag when you hit the button so “in motion” shots just don’t happen.  I need a better camera soon 😦

kevin-shawns-cake My wonderful sister- in-law Shawn and Kevin have the same birthday.  She is not 30 yet, but we will get her!  They shared this “dual” birthday cake made by Judy, who also made Shawn’s wedding cake.   Isn’t it beautiful?

vanilla-bean-cheesecake

baileys-cheesecake

I also made a couple of cheesecakes for the party.  Bailey’s Irish Cream with drizzled chocolate on the bottom and vanilla bean on the top. I was disappointed in the vanilla bean.  Oh well, that is what you get for trying a new recipe!

kevins-birthday-spread

Lastly, here is the food spread for the party.  It included coleslaw, potato salad, chili cheese dip, broccoli salad, veggies, dip, buns, corn muffins, and fruit.  There is BBQ chicken drumsticks hiding under the foil to stay warm and I have pulled pork BBQ, macaroni and cheese as well as baked beans behind me on the counter.

The party was fantastic and everyone had a great time.  I think we ended up with about 50 people in attendance. Kevin was shocked that I had invited so many of his friends from high school and college.  Thanks to Nick and Jared I was able to track everyone down.  Kevin’s sister Katy even flew in from NY as a surprise.  I think this shocked him the most.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this day so special and for all of your hard work and ability to keep it a secret for so long!

Chocolate Intensity Multiplied

chocolate-intensity-21This past Tuesday was my friend Jodi’s birthday.  I knew I wanted to make something special for her but wasn’t sure what to make.  Cheesecake? Cake cake? Cookies? Cupcakes?  Ah, so many choices.  When I asked Jodi to name her favorite dessert she was speechless.  I mean, if someone asked you to name your favorite dessert you would probably freeze too!  So many decisions.   Mine, however, is a toss up between hazelnut tiramisu and dark chocolate.   She did mention that she loved molten chocolate lava cakes as well as anything else that was chocolate…any kind of chocolate…and that she was not allergic to anything.  Sweet!  This left me total freedom.

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I set out to search for a new recipe.  While I knew of many tried and true, delicious desserts, I was having the hardest time deciding on one.  First I was going to make a chocolate bourbon pecan cheesecake.  Then I decided that I wanted to make a layer cake and decorate it.  Ok, scratch that.  What about take mini lava cakes to her house and baking them on the spot?  Too messy.  So after reading many cookbooks and cake books, I decided upon this recipe.  Chocolate Intensity.  Yes it lives up to the name.  Here is where my problem begins.  I can’t leave a recipe alone. Nor can I ever make a recipe EXACTLY as the recipe states.  I ALWAYS change something no matter what I make.  Don’t ask me why, I just do.

chocolate-intensity

This chocolate intensity cake is now multiplied because it is THAT intense.  While most chocoholics would probably say that they could eat an entire cake, I beg to differ.  I AM a chocoholic and after just a few bites of this rich cake I am satisfied.  It is rich and dense but not sickening sweet.  It is creamy and smooth almost like a chocolate cheesecake, but it is not.  Definitely add the bourbon to the ganache.  Just trust me it is that good. This cake is also best served right from the refrigerator with a glass of ice cold milk.  With the addition of toasted pecans and golden caramel in the ganache this makes for one sexy cake.

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While this cake is definitely perfect to save for a special occasion, it is also too good to wait to make.  Make it as soon as you can.  This is that cake that will have people talking and asking for the recipe…or maybe just moaning with ecstasy!

Chocolate Intensity Cake

Makes one 9″ cake
Ingredients
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, preferably softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee (I used hot water and espresso powder)
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Method
Preheat oven to 350º F
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and butter the parchment.

Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine butter, sugar and coffee until the butter has melted and the mixture is boiling. Turn off heat.  Gently pour the hot mixture over your chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously until blended. Add in the vanilla and salt.  Stir.  Slowly temper 1/2 cup of hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the hot chocolate mixture and whisk to combine well.  Tempering gradually will prevent from scrambling your eggs.

Strain the chocolate batter through a fine wire mesh sieve then pour batter into prepared pan. Set cake pan in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center is shiny and set but still a bit jiggly. Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cardboard round on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Remove pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before glazing with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Bourbon Ganache

makes enough to cover one 9″ cake
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp bourbon

Method

Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Gently stir in the bourbon. Transfer glaze to a small bowl and cover the surface of the glaze with plastic wrap and let cool for 5 minutes at room temperature before using.

To glaze the cake:

Place the chilled cake, still on the cake round, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Slowly pour the hot glaze onto the center of the cake. Smooth the glaze over the top and sides, letting the excess drip onto the baking sheet.

Refrigerate the cake before adding the topping.

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Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Pecan Topping
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
6 ounces heavy whipping cream
4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup MEC3 caramel topping, or any other caramel topping
2 ounces bourbon
Method
Combine chocolate in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
In either a saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave safe bowl, heat cream to a boil.  Pour cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute.  Whisk together chocolate and cream until mixture is combined.  Whisk in caramel topping and bourbon until blended.  Fold in chopped, toasted pecans.
Gently pour mixture on top of chilled cake.  Spread out topping as desired.
Refrigerate cake at least 2 hours before serving. Slice with a hot knife for “clean” edged pieces.
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Cake and ganache source: The Cake Book
Chocolate Caramel Bourbon Pecan Topping Source: Original Recipe

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

chocolate-ganache-cupcake-3Happy Friday the 13th!  Today Kevin’s office is having a potluck lunch.  Every time they have ANY sort of food related function whether they are celebrating a birthday, a promotion, or a retirement, they all turn to Kevin for dessert.  No, he can’t bake…well he could if all of the ingredients and recipe were laid out in front of him, but anyway… I have been known as “Miss Mia” from day one of us dating and me sending in sweets to his office.  I don’t know why the guys in his office use “Miss Mia”, considering I acquired that name through Kevin helping out with boy scouts, but it works.  So they always turn to Kevin for dessert and ask what marvelous thing “Miss Mia” could send in.  This gets my gears turning and I try to come up with the most creative flavors or dessert I can think of at the time. While I am famous for my cheesecakes, I certainly can’t send them into the office every week.  That would get expensive!

Today, Friday, the office gets chocolate ganache cupcakes…or Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache and vanilla frosting…or Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate cupcakes with creme de menthe spiked chocolate ganache and Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Butter cream (well, frosting in my opinion).  Oh, and green frosting too since St. Patty’s Day is next week!

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I can’t even give you one word to describe these cupcakes.  They are just that good. I had one last night at 10:30 after I finished icing them with the green frosting.  Oh my! SO scrumptious!  The cake itself is super light and fluffy.  The ganache is extremely creamy with a very nice light mint flavor and the frosting is like silk.  Normally I am not a fan of “American” butter cream or confectioner’s sugar and butter frosting, but this batch is so smooth and has the consistency of marshmallow fluff.  Delicious!

(Oh…check out the difference that lighting makes in your pictures.  The pictures above were taken with natural light this morning, while the picture right above the vanilla butter cream recipe were taken super early this morning in my kitchen lighting.  What a difference in shades of green!)

Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate Cake with creme de menthe chocolate ganache and Magnolia Bakery Butter Cream

serves 24

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup strong black coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake pans with liners.  Set aside.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat at medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin). Pour batter into cupcake liners filling 2/3 way full.

Bake 12- 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Source: Hershey’s Kitchens

Creme de menthe chocolate ganache

makes enough to top 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

6 ounces heavy whipping cream

8 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup creme de menthe

Method

Scald heavy cream in microwave or on stove top.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt from the heat of the cream.  Whisk mixture together until just combined.  Add creme de menthe and continue to whisk until blended and uniform in consistency.

Let ganache sit on the counter for 10 minutes before topping cooled cupcakes.

When ganache is cooled, lightly spoon a few teaspoons of ganache on top of cupcake, spreading over the entire top of the cupcake.  Let ganache set until “tacky” before icing with butter cream.

Source: Original Recipe

chocolate-ganache-cupcakes-2

Vanilla Butter Cream

makes enough for one 2-layer 9 inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6-8 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.  Fitted with the whip attachment on medium speed, beat until smooth and cream, about 3-5 minutes.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.  You may not need to add all of the sugar.  If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

Use and store the icing at room temperature because the icing will set if chilled.  Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Source: More from Magnolia