Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fresh Cherry Cupcakes

Confession...I love cherry flavors in things, but rarely eat fresh cherries.  I think I just got it into my head that they're too much work.  The pit just seems to get in the way of enjoying them, so I stick to maraschino cherries or my favorite Cherry Garcia ice cream. Yum!

I decided for the What's Baking Challenge: Summer Fruits, that I'd try to tackle something with cherries.  What I found is that the pit isn't really that big of a deal.  Go out to your local farmers market and grab a quart to make these as soon as possible!

Fresh Cherry Cupcakes
from Baking Bites 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup finely chopped fresh pitted cherries

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
3) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Blend in the egg, vanilla extract and almond extract until smooth. Working in two or three additions, gradually mix in the dry ingredients, alternating with additions of buttermilk and ending with an addition of the last of the flour mixture.
4) Stir in chopped cherries.
5) Bake for 16-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 whole cherries

1) Combine butter, milk, vanilla and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar in a medium mixing bowl and mix on high speed until smooth.
2) Gradually blend in remaining confectioners’ sugar until frosting reaches a creamy, spreadable consistency. Add additional sugar to thicken frosting if necessary.
3) Top each cupcake with frosting and a whole, fresh cherry.

My husband started at his new base this month, so I sent these in with him.  I loved that each bite had a lot of cherries in it.  I've had many cupcakes with maybe one piece of fruit in them and it takes away from the fruit and becomes more about the cake.  This recipe is great at highlighting the cherry.  My husband said these were gone before he even put the carrying case on the table.  Apparently military guys are easy to please. :) 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

I can't believe that I haven't posted in two weeks.  Time flies when you're moving.  In the last two weeks, I have moved from Cheyenne, WY to a base in New Jersey.  I did all the driving in two days and now have been trying to set up our house.  I promise that blog updates will happen more frequently now that we're getting situated.  Plus, I'm reunited with my husband (aka the taste tester), so I'm not eating leftovers for five nights in a row.

During my move, I decided to take on a recipe swap.  Genius, right?  Well, I thought it was nice because it was an open ended swap where I could tackle any recipe from What's Cookin' Chicago?.  It helped take away the thinking of what I should make when getting to a new place since all of the recipes are so amazing.

While I was at my parents for a few days, I made Cuban sandwiches from her blog, which were amazing.  I found a pork marinade that made such amazing pork, that I'm sure I'll use it for all my pork recipes in the future.  Definitely check out that recipe on her blog when you have a second since I didn't have time to take pictures.  They were definitely loved by everyone in my family.

When I got to New Jersey, I decided that I was going to make Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos because they seemed easy and we both love cilantro, so I thought it was perfect.  I also made Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf, but made it too late to include it in this post.  Head over to What's Cookin' Chicago? to find some fantastic recipes that your whole family will devour.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos
barely adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago?
cooking spray for sauteeing
2-3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
flour corn tortillas
taco garnishes (salsa, sour cream, cheese, etc)

Cilantro Lime Pesto
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (do not include stems)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds
3 tablespoons chopped, fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chicken broth

1) Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
2) In a skillet sprayed with cooking spray, saute chicken over medium high heat and cook through.
3) Using a blender, mix together the cilantro, olive oil, almonds, garlic, lime juice, parmesan, salt and chicken broth on low speed for 2 minutes.
4) Toss cooked, seasoned chicken with the pesto. Fill tortillas with chicken and top with preferred garnishes.

To say that we loved these tacos would be an understatement.  My husband inhaled four of them, and said that he would've kept eating them if he could.  He's still talking about them several days later too.  The pesto was a great way to pack a lot of flavor in a great sauce.  We'll definitely have to put these on rotation again for our next taco night.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Black Bean and Corn Dip

Confession: I love dips.  Like I said before, I think they're amazing.  But, I have to say that when you find yourself living alone, and you see dip in your recipe swap email, it is almost like reading "Leftovers FOREVER" instead.  

I knew the second that I got this recipe that I was either going to have to cut it down by a lot...or repurpose it into a meal, so it didn't seem so daunting.  I decided to eat mostly vegetarian while my husband was in New Jersey and I was in Wyoming, so I set out to find something vegetarian that would be complimentary to the dip.  I found exactly the recipe I needed in Sweet Beginning's Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos...the pairing couldn't be more perfect if you ask me.

Black bean and Corn Dip
barely adopted from Kickin it in the Kitch
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can of corn 
1/2 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice from 1 lime
1/3 cup Italian dressing
1 teaspoon cumin1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Mix all ingredients until well blended. Chill for at least 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips or in tacos.  

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos
slightly adapted from Sweet Beginnings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet potato, cut into a medium dice
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 
flour tortillas 
1 avocado, diced 
lime and cilantro to garnish

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) In a bowl, toss the diced sweet potato with the oil, 1 teaspoon cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet.
3) Warm tortillas and spoon on some sweet potatoes, followed by corn dip, and any desired toppings.

This meal was beautiful.  I loved all the different colors that went together.  I almost felt bad eating it, but my stomach was complaining of hunger too much for me to ignore it.  I thought this dish tasted really great together.  I have to say that I tasted the dip by itself and the Italian dressing was a little overpowering to me.  However, in the tacos, everything balanced really well and you couldn't really taste the dressing.  This was a great combination, and I'm glad that I ventured to find other purposes for the Black bean and corn dip besides just on chips.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hummus and Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes

While my husband was deployed, the cafeteria apparently tricked him into eating eggplant that he thought was something else.  He hated it, and to this day won't try eggplant.  This makes me very sad because I love eggplant.  He also doesn't like hummus, so that also stays away from our plates while he is at home.

While I was making this meal, I started snacking on leftover tomato slices with the avocado.  I have to say that I think I almost spoiled my dinner.  I guess there are definitely worse things to be snacking on though!

Hummus and Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes
adapted from Everything Fabulous  
2 tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt + pepper to taste
6-8 slices of bread 
Goat cheese
1/2 cup hummus (I used Roasted Garlic)
1 avocado-pitted and smashed
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Arrange the tomatoes and eggplant on a baking sheet, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize
4) Season avocado mash with garlic salt.
5) Toast bread either under broiler or in the toaster.
6) Layer the goat cheese, hummus, avocado mash, eggplant, and tomatoes

The only complaint that I had with this meal is that I couldn't taste the balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes.  I love the flavor of balsamic vinegar though, so maybe I just needed stronger flavors.  I loved the roasted flavor on the eggplant and the tomatoes.  I thought everything went together really well.  If you want to make this a non-vegetarian meal, I think it would be great with some grilled chicken.  I also think alfalfa sprouts would make a great addition to the vegetarian version.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

On Pinterest, I have quite a few vegetarian meals hiding away for the days that my husband and I are not together.  Most of them involve portobello mushrooms and eggplant because he doesn't like them and I think he cringes if I even mention making them.

Well, our move has begun and he is now in New Jersey while I finish up working and cleaning up the house in Wyoming.  Cooking supplies are limited, and every time that I go to look for something in my kitchen, I'm reminded that the packers put most everything in a box that is now probably somewhere in Indiana. 

Enter this stuffed mushroom recipe.  All you really need is a baking sheet and foil.  I definitely had those in my kitchen.  The ingredients are so light and easy that it almost made me forget about all those greasy hamburgers I'll eat on the road to get to New Jersey.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
slightly adapted from A Food Centric Life
Roasted Tomatoes
12-16 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoons (14 ml) olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely minced or squished through a garlic press
salt and pepper to taste

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a quarter sheet or half sheet rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil.
2) Toss halved tomatoes with oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread tomatoes on the baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until shriveled and edges are just starting to turn a bit brown. 

Portobello Caps
4 large Portobello mushrooms, any size (my store only had the medium sized caps)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 ounces of plain goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme 

1)  While the tomatoes are roasting, clean the mushrooms by wiping the outside of the caps with a damp paper towel. Pop out the stems by pushing them from side to side until the snap out. Then with a teaspoon, scrape the gills out until the underside is mostly clean. Place them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
2) Brush mushroom caps inside and out with olive oil.  Sprinkle each cap with salt and pepper.
3)  After tomatoes are done roasting, preheat broiler.  Broil mushrooms 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are hot and the edges start to brown.
4) Remove caps from the oven, and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Fill caps with the roasted tomatoes, and dot with goat cheese.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.
5) Bake for 12 minutes or until hot and the cheese has softened.

These mushrooms are fantastic.  I loved the acid from the tomatoes against the strong taste of the goat cheese.  I think these made a great dinner, but I think they'd also make a great party appetizer in the button portobellos as well.  These will definitely go on the list of things to make again when my husband is out of town.