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It’s Finally Friday Folks!
This little piece of work will sure to delight.
I have a friend coming over today for some chit-chat and thought it would be nice to whip up something quick. Nothing fancy, just a light lunch. Salad would definitely seem like the easiest way to go, but I was craving seafood as usual. Those of you who know me, know that seafood is my second love with chocolate taking the top spot (that is a no brainer). I thought about what else I had in the pantry to avoid a store run. You know we all have those go to items that are life savers in crunch time. Sometimes buried all the way in the back or right at our figure tips.
I can’t say that we eat healthy every time we get together. But for the most part we try. Whatever we eat, whenever we eat it, it always must be satisfying.
As I ravaged through the kitchen, a lightbulb came on. No, not a big bright idea but i accidentally flipped the light switch and saw the avocados sitting in the fruit tray calling my name. Still not sure of what i wanted to prepare, I looked into the refrigerator and pulled out the shrimp I bought the day before. I opened the pantry and thought I hadn’t had quinoa in a while. So I took that out too. Now sitting on the counter where 3 ingredients that would make up whatever would come to mind.
I immediately thought of shrimp cocktail with some type of twist. Then I thought a quinoa salad with shrimp and avocado could work too. My girlfriend is an artist and loves little cutesy things, so I thought to structure these ingredients in a mold like a tartar. That’s it, Shrimp Tartar!
So here is what I came up with.
Bottom layer– Quinoa
- 1 cup dry tri color quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth, low-sodium
- Salt & Pepper
Middle layer– Green Goodness
- 2 Avocado, cubed
- 3 tbsp. Cilantro, minced
- ½ lime
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ sweet onion, finely chopped
- ½ jalapeno, finely chopped
Top layer– Shrimp Cocktail
- pound medium shrimp, peeled;cooked
- ½ tsp cilantro, minced
- dash hot pepper sauce
- 3 tbsp. Italian salad dressing
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 green onion, thinly minced (optional)
- For the Quinoa: In a medium pot, using vegetable broth, cook quinoa according to instructions on the package or cook until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, approximately 15 minutes. Turn the burner off and allow the covered skillet to set until any remaining liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add cilantro for garnish, and serve.
- For the Avocado Mix: In a medium bowl, with a folk, mash avocado roughly, add in the remaining ingredients and set aside.
- For the Shrimp: Place all ingredients in a large bowl; toss combine. Refrigerate covered for at least 30 minutes.
- Assemble: Place large dessert rings on serving platter, for the bottom layer, add half cup of quinoa. Lightly press to compile. Spoon in half cup avocado mix and smooth top. Next add shrimp cocktail on top to finish. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Gently remove the rings, garnish and serve.
You can use more or less of the ingredients with your personal preference. Yields 4
How often can you say a Disney movie inspired you to cook up something that is not only eye catching, but tasty too. Better yet, a movie where a rat was dying to become a great French chef. I must confess, I’ve seen this movie more than 10 times both with and without the intended viewers around. Although comical, the message behind the movie was clear, nothing should stand in the way of your greatness!
In 2007, Pixar released the movie Ratatouille. It was a story of an unlikely pair; a rat named Remy and a kitchen help Linguini that hilariously teamed up to prepare some of famed chef Auguste Gusteau greatest dishes. One notably, was Ratatouille. Ratatouille is a French stew made up primarily of tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini with a few other ingredient.
In the movie, Ratatouille is prepared in a slightly different way from the traditional using the same ingredients. It involves cutting and baking thinly slice zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and yellow squash, over a tomato and bell pepper sauce. The layers of brightly colored vegetables just jumped out at me. There was no reason to search for a recipe. After all, it was all visibly on the big screen.
I figured we could do with a meatless meal this week. Though I am not quite sure everyone would be in agreement. Nevertheless there is nothing wrong with a healthy serving of vegetables every now and then. Did I mention that this is a perfect dish for vegetarians? Well it is! No Meat! No Dairy! My non-eating meat friends will love this dish. To make it a more hearty meal, you can add sliced potatoes, sweet or regular. Your choice.
One suggestion I have is to use a veggie slicer if you have one. I did all the work by hand. Its therapy for me. But for a quicker and more uniformed slices, a slicer would do wonders.
” I cant help myself, I like good food okay.” ~ Remy
I decided to use my go to tomato sauce adding in marjoram which was recommended by my favorite vendor at the fresh market in city. He knows his stuff. I thought that oregano would have given the sauce that additional pop on its own but marjoram took the depth to another level.
Some people prepare with an additional layer of béchamel sauce, but for the purpose of this recipe, I stayed close to my inspiration. Depending on how big your pan is, you may want to add more or less vegetables.
Here we go:-
For the Ratatouille
- 1 orange, red or yellow pepper, seeded and sliced in halves
- 2 or 3 roma tomatoes sliced
- 1 eggplant sliced
- 1 zucchini sliced
- 1 yellow squash sliced
- 1 medium red onion (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to brush vegetables
- 3 sprigs thyme finely chopped
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 1 ½ can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 4 finely chopped fresh basil
- 3 fresh sprigs thyme chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Wash and slice vegetable. Set aside
- In a sauce pan heat oil on medium high heat, add onions and garlic. Allow to sweat on medium heat for 3 minutes then add vinegar. After 1 minute pour in tomatoes.
- Cook for 5 minutes, then add basil, thyme salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook additional 5 minutes then pour into baking dish and spread evenly on the bottom. (if you are also using béchamel sauce, you would add it atop of the tomato sauce.
- Begin to assemble layers by alternating vegetables and over laying then in which ever design you desire.
- In a small bowl, add oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix together. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush top of vegetable.
- Bake on middle rack for 1 ½ hour until vegetables are tender covered. Remove cover, drop temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minute or until a little color appears (optional)
I have never been much of an Aioli fan to be honest. My first encounter was a few years ago at a party we attended in a city car garage surrounded by a rowdy crowd watching the Eroupa Manschaft (German for championship) and of course cheering on our German National team. Maybe this setting wasn’t the best for trying new dishes. After all, we were in a working car garage. But what could it hurt right?
Well lets just say, I paid for it severely later that night and the day after that. My husband really likes the stuff and begged me to give it another chance. But this time with my own making.
To me, aioli seems to be so much like mayonnaise of which I barely touch. Its not my favorite condiment. But sometimes you have to take one for the team.
So I did some research and found that Aioli in its purist form does not use egg or yokes. The name itself means garlic and oil which in France and Spain is used to make this condiment. Sounded great to me. So I decided I wanted to go this route and create a recipe that we both can enjoy without me having any regrets. I am so glad I did!
I settled on an Avocado Aioli because, why not? Avocado is quite popular in my house. Plus it has natural oils which allows for less to no oil in this recipe and will give us the creamy consistency I am looking for. And you already know how I love coconut milk. It just adds that depth I like.
What you need :-
- 1 ripe, fresh avocado
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
- ½ of lemon lime
- 1½ teaspoon cilantro
- 1 tsp of fresh diced garlic
- ¼ cup coconut milk (more or less depending on your preferred consistency.)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seed
- salt and pepper to taste.
What to do :-
- Blend all ingredients together in food processor or blender and at medium speed, mix until desired consistency.
- Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 days (but it tastes best when used immediately).
I enjoy this creamy goodness with my Zesty Cajun Sweet Potato Fries. Oven Roasted of course!
What is Easter without carrot cake? Better yet cupcakes?
When I was growing up my aunt Bea always made the best carrot cakes. I use to watch so intensely to find out what was the secret to her moist masterpiece. Maybe it was the mysterious blend of spices she sprinkled in, or the ratio of cream cheese to butter she added in the frosting. Perhaps it wasn’t the ingredients at all. Could have been her singing while she sifted, mixed and blended with love. Whatever it was, it made for the perfect carrot cake.
So after many years of trial and error, I have come up with my best combination for the most splendid carrot cake. It is foolproof and simple to make. I guarantee you will be satisfied.
Nothing tops a carrot cake like a creamy frosting. Normally there is no question as to what I whip up. It’s always going to be a cream cheese frosting. On the other hand, why not try something slightly different. I was feeling a bit frisky. So I found a delightful twist using Italian mascarpone cheese on a recipe from one of my favorite chefs Ina Garten in her latest book Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.
To decorate, I made a few carrots out of fondant. Not necessary step. Just a little something extra that the kids will enjoy and big kids like me too.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups grated carrots
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 cup walnuts, optional
- 12 oz Italian mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees; Line the cupcake pan with the cupcake molds.
- In the electronic stand mixing bowl, with the paddle attachment, mix oil and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix together.
- In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. On low speed, add half the carrots to the wet mixture. Then add in the dry mixture. Now add the remaining carrots and walnuts. Blend well.
- Using a scooper, spoon batter into each cupcake molds. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about 5 to 7 minutes. Then remove from pan, place on cooling rack until ready to frost (best to allow cupcakes to completely cool before frosting).
- Add all ingredients into a medium bowl or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until fluffy. Gently spread frosting on top of each cupcake. Plate and serve.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Adapted from: My Aunt Bea 🙂
The secret is definitely in the sauce! This unbelievably creamy tomato basil goodness will leaving you wanting more. The combination of fresh and sun-dried tomatoes is perfect. Did… Read more “Cappelletti w/Creamy Tomato and Basil Sauce”
FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE!
Its HumpDay guys! And boy do I have something decadent for you.
Okay, most know that I have had a secret love affair for many years. But the secret is out and I am not ashamed to say, I L O VE CHOCOLATE! It should come then as no surprise that chocolate is apart of my daily life like breathing. In some shape, fashion or form, this cocoa goodness makes an appearance.
So instead of just a cup of hot chocolate today, I decided to share the love with my in-laws during “Nachtisch” (German for dessert after dinner). Come on, who doesn’t love chocolate?
I have tried a few recipes and as you guess, some were no so great. The thing is, when using different textures of chocolate in a cake, you have to make sure the right ingredients in the correct amounts work well together for the particular outcome you want to achieve. Not all products work together.
But I think I have found the perfect combination and have been using this recipe ever since. This is the most moist, flavorful chocolate cake you will ever make.
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs (room temp)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup canola oil**
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup coffee (strong)*
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
Chocolate Ganache (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans and set aside.
- In the microwave, melt half of the chocolate 45 seconds to 1 minute (microwaves vary in temperature), remove from microwave, add the remaining half of chocolate and blend until melted. Set Aside to cool.
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer or an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- Add eggs one at a time, then pour in remaining liquid ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute then add melted chocolate and beat for another two minutes; the batter will become thin.
- Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for square and rectangular pans or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack for another 10 minutes
- For the chocolate frosting, I found a very quick and easy buttercream frosting by Savory Sweet Life that I used Chocolate Buttercream Frosting .
- For the ganache, chop chocolate in to pieces and place in a medium bowl. In a sauce pan, heat milk in a sauce pan, bring to a boiling. Add milk to the chocolate. Allow to set for 5 minutes before stirring. Decorate and design with chocolate as you choose. I used a spoon to drizzle the ganache.
- Coffee is optional. You can use water in its place if so desired *
- You can use vegetable oil **
This truly is sinfully delicious. Just one slice will not be enough.
I’ve found that the most juicy tender cuts of meat are the boneless ones. In my house there is no bias. But for this recipe, having a boneless cut not only helps the meat to cook evenly, but also gives a perfect succulent finish. Delicious steaks can be cooked perfect even on a stovetop.
With a few perfectly placed ingredients, you can create a delicious, mouth watering meal in under 45 minutes. Grilled seasoned veggies kick up the health value of this already scrumptious dish. Potatoes also complement well if prepared the correct way as not to over power the meat.
I had a craving for Brussel Sprouts. So I sautéed up a few to enjoy with this unbelievably taste tenderloin.
Serving 4 Portions /Preheat Oven 400°F
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ Celery Root (peel and diced)*
- 4 Portions Tenderloin Steaks (5 oz each)
- crack pepper
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
- For the Celery Puree – Brown the butter in a pan, then set aside. In another sauce pan, heat heavy cream on medium high, then add celery. Cook for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in butter a bit at a time. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until creamy but not too soft. If needed, at a bit more cream.
- For the Tenderloin – Preheat a heavy skillet, cast iron pan or stove top grill. Season steak with salt and pepper. Add melted butter to skillet. As the butter begins to brown and smoke, place in steaks, 2 at a time and fry for 2 minutes each side. Please note, skillet and stovetops vary in heat, you may need to fry less or more depending on your preference of doneness. When done, place on a baking tray.
- Stack celery puree about 1cm to 2cm high on the prepared steak. Place tray on the middle rack in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. For a more crusted effect, mix some bread crumbs, parmesan and butter together and sprinkle on the top of the puree before baking.
- Remove from oven and allow meat to rest before cutting into it. Serve with your favorite side dish and enjoy!
* In some areas it is difficult to find celery root. However, a puree can be made from Cauliflower or Turnip following the same process.
What good is a fine piece of meat without delicate red wine. I always peer tenderloin with a soft Cabernet Sauvignon that is much milder than the regular bold flavors we are used to. But if you are looking for the perfect match, try a Pinot Noir.
Some people wait for special occasions or holidays to try new decadent recipes when there is a crowd to appreciate it. Well not for me. When the craving for chocolate hits, then its an occasion to indulge in a rich piece of chocolate heaven. Sure, I could settle for some Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream or curb my sweet tooth with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk. But why settle for store bought when you have all the ingredients to whip up something more satisfying.
This triple threat is much easier than it looks. It just takes a bit more patience, but in the end will be worthwhile. Its kind of hard to resist all this chocolate goodness. The bottom layer is an oh so moist dark chocolate cake, the middle layer is smooth chocolate mousse and the top layer is a very light creamy white chocolate.
Bottom layer ( If you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, then you can opted for that)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium eggs, room temperature
3 ounces dark chocolate, melted
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup strong coffee
½ cup milk
Middle Layer ( you can opt to using an instant mousse. 2 pkg will be enough. It will taste just as good).
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons hot water
2 cups whipping cream (heavy cream)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch of salt
Top Layer (sorry, I haven’t found a substitute for this yet)
2 tablespoon water
8 ounces white chocolate
1¾ cups heavy whipping cream, divided
¼ cup powdered sugar
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip remaining cream at medium speed adding powder sugar as you go until it starts to thicken. As it begins to thicken, increase the speed and whip until soft peaks start to form. Check the whisk after about 30 seconds for soft peaks when whisk is lifted. Using a hand whisk, fold some of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten it up. Then use a spatula to fold remaining whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until there are no streaks. Gently spoon white chocolate mousse onto the middle layer of mousse. Smooth to the sides to avoid bubbles. Placed cake back in the refrigerator and allow to set for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve.
I hope you enjoy it as must as I enjoyed making it! I just love when a plan comes together!
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Happy First of February!!!!!
Love is already in the air. This month host the day of hearts, all things red, lots of glam and chocolates galore. So what better way to start the sweetest month than with a favorite of mine: The Chocolate Cage Cake. My favorite thing about this cake is the contrast of colors and flavor. The way the chocolate cage encase the vanilla buttercream icing while the red fruits and green flowers play peek-a-boo through the whimsical windows.
I never really need an excuse to get in the kitchen. I love baking and creating something special. With it being the anniversary of my only brother in-law, what better way to celebrate than with a beautiful edible gift from me. After all, who doesn’t like cake?
The cake itself is pretty basic. It’s a white vanilla cake which I substituted with almond flavor. Almond has such a sweet aroma to it, I just love it. The icing is my go vanilla buttercream. It’s the old faithful that many bakers use. Plus I normally always have butter and sugar so it’s the most convenient for me.
So here it goes:
White Vanilla Cake
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour + a little more for pans
- 1 stick butter at room temperature + some for the pans
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 3 sticks butter
- 5 cups sifted confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon heavy cream
- 7 ounces dark chocolate
Yield: two 9 inch cakes ¦ Prep: 30 min ¦ Cook: 30 min
Preheat oven to 350º F (120ºC). Butter and flour the pans tapping off the extra flour.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl; whisk and set aside. In another bowl beat sugar, butter and oil together on medium speed until nice and fluffy. The mixture will get lighter, the fluffier it becomes. Then beat in one egg at a time. No worries if the mixture looks like it’s separating. You’re on track, don’t panic. I added my almond extract and continue mixing for another minute (I substituted the vanilla for almond extract, but use vanilla if it is your prefered taste of cake).
Now alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk starting and ending with the flour until everything is combined and smooth. You don’t want to over beat the mixture or the cake will have a few air pockets. I normally let my batter sit for about 15 minutes to let the ingredients mingle a bit.
Divide the mixture evenly into the pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown. Use a toothpick to ensure it is done. Remove from pans and set on racks to cool. Trim the tops of the cakes to make them even. Set aside until ready to put together.
On to the frosting. . .
The frosting is simple and very easy to make. When using a stand mixer its less work too. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!!!!
Some people prefer using a paddle attachment for mixing, but i find that the whisk paddle adds more air in and gives the icing a lighter and fluffier look. In the bowl, add the butter and confectioner’s sugar until combined. Add in the heavy cream as needed and continue to beat until it looks clouds my daughter says. But what she means is very fluffy. Then add the vanilla and until combined.
Time for the fun part. . .
Okay, so another great thing I love of about the Chocolate Cage Cake is that the application of the buttercream doesn’t have to be perfect. Just smooth enough for the cage to sit around the cake.
So first thing is to place one of the cakes on to a secure platter. Then smooth a layer of the buttercream on the top of this bottom cake and then add the second cake directly on top. Push down lighty so that it is secured. But not to much. You dont want all that delicious cream to come out. Make sure it is evenly placed to avoid having to trim a lot of the cake off. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream around the sides and top of the cake. This will hide any stray crumbs when you do your second layer of icing. Place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. During this time I prepare my chocolate for the cage.
The quickest way to melt the chocolate is to microwave for about 30 seconds. I usually use the tempering method with a boiler when handing chocolate. But this process is quicker. Once the chocolate has melted, I pour into a homemade piping bag (made with wax paper or you can use a piping bag with a small round tip) and cut a small hole at the end. Roll out a piece of parchment paper onto the table. In a quick circular motioning, squeeze the chocolate onto the parchment paper a few layers (just a note, I measured to paper to the exact size of the cake) . Be careful not to apply to much pressure to the pipping bag as to avoid a big mess. It can get messy. Set aside to let air dry partially . At least until the second coating is of the cake.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and begin applying a thick coat of buttercream to the sides and top of the cake. It does not have to be perfect, but try to get it as smooth and even as possible. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes, just enough to set.
At this time your chocolate should be dry but still flexible enough to bend. Begin to smooth around the cake gently pressing the chocolate onto the buttercream. Give it a few rubs on the side and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Carefully remove the cake from the refrigerator not to break the top of the chocolate cage. Slowly unwrap the parchment paper from the chocolate. A few pieces may fall of, but not to worry. Once you have removed the paper, you can assemble the fruits or decor of your choice on top and around the cake.
And there you have it! I hope the directions were easy to follow. But if not, dont hestitate to ask anything and I will do my best to assist.