Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Have I ever expressed my love for shrimp? If not, I'll express it now... I heart shrimp! With my whole heart. Undeniably so. If I wanted to, I could ramble off all the shrimp variations that I love -- blackened shrimp, shrimp scampi, coconut shrimp, shrimp alfredo, shrimp kabobs, shrimp po-boys, shrimp cupcakes. Ha! just kidding about the cupcakes, but I think you get the picture. So there... I've expressed my love. :)

You can definitely add this shrimp in garlic sauce to my list of favorites. This dish is super easy to assemble and so tasty! I mean seriously, can you ever go wrong with onions, bell peppers, and garlic? Not likely. My only complaint was that we didn't have any leftovers. I plan to double the recipe next time.
Yields 4 servings
4 cups water
2 cups (1 Boil-in-Bag) Uncle Ben's brown rice
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp butter, separated
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tsp minced garlic
1 (10 oz) package frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed

Prepare rice as directed on the box. Drain water and fluff rice. Add green onion and season to taste; cover and set aside.

In a measuring cup, combine broth and cornstarch; stir and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a wok over medium-high heat. Add peppers, onion, and garlic; cook about 3 minutes or until peppers and onion are crisp-tender. Remove vegetables from wok and drain any liquids that may remain in the pan. Add shrimp and remaining tbsp of butter. Stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.

Push shrimp from the center of the wok. Stir broth mixture; add to the center of the wok. Cook and stir sauce until thickened and bubbly. Return vegetables to the wok and stir to coat all the ingredients with the sauce. Cook and stir about a minute more or until heated through. Serve immediately with rice.

Source: adapted from Borders at Home Simple Meals

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Tea Cakes

As a little girl, I used to play in my tree-house with my little kitchenette, and host tea parties for my friends (sometimes they were pretend friends, but they were friends none the less). Now as an adult, I still fantasize about hosting tea parties and all the delightful treats I would make to accompany the tea (or coffee). I think it would be a wonderful way to visit with my girlfriends and fulfill my urges to bake for others. But with life and all the busy schedules, I often talk myself out of the idea.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the Foodbuzz Editorial Team announcing an Electrolux Tea Party Top 9 Takeover. Foodbuzz will donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every tea party recipe created by a Featured Publisher. And this Friday, March 25th, they will showcase recipes in their Daily Top 9 section. So how could I resist! Here was my chance to partake in a tea party and contribute to a great cause! I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to use... I have had my eye on these lemon poppy seed tea cakes for over a month. :)
All cancer research is extremely important, and as a woman, ovarian cancer research obviously hits home a little more. I'm happy to spread the word, and the great news is, you can help support this cause too! Join Kelly Ripa and Electrolux for a virtual tea party for a cause, at Kelly Confidential. When you do, Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Check it out!
A few notes about this recipe... When you whip up the egg whites, make sure your beaters are absolutely clean. Otherwise, the exposure of other ingredients will prohibit the thickening of the meringue. Also, feel free to fill your muffin pans to the rim with batter. I wasn't sure how much they would rise, so I only filled them 3/4 full, but as you can see they didn't have much of a top (like the ones shown in my cookbook).

Overall, I loved these tea cakes! They were the perfect companion for my morning cup of coffee. And when I get around to hosting my own tea party, these little darlings will be featured. But until then, they're just for me... and you! :)

Yields 6 tea cakes
2/3 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 6 standard muffin cups with baking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and 1/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and poppy seeds until well combined. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, combining the mixture well. 

In another large bowl, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and beat until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stir 1/4 of meringue into the cake batter and fold in the remainder gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden. Remove tea cakes from the pan immediately and cool on wire racks.

Source: adapted from Gourmet's In Short Order cookbook 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Pasta

My calendar tells me that today was the first day of spring. Ah, spring. Flowers are blooming, trees are looking vibrant, and I am itching to get outside each day and enjoy the beautiful weather! Can you believe that spring is already here? The weeks are passing so quickly, and I am struggling to hold onto to my weekends. When our schedule gets this busy, I have to reach into my recipe box and dig out those quick, yet tasty, meals that come together with minimal effort.
This is one of those recipes that we tried and loved, but then it was somehow buried away. I was excited to stumble upon it again! This pasta is full of flavor and has a nice kick from the fire roasted tomatoes and red pepper flakes. 

Yields 6 servings
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 tsp sea salt
8 oz angel hair pasta
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper; cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stir frequently. Add tomatoes and salt; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package. Drain; transfer to serving bowl. Pour tomato mixture over pasta; toss gently to coat. Add basil, both cheeses, and remaining oil; toss to combine. 

Source: adapted from Muir Glen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Cream Whoopie Pies

Ah, whoopie pies... decadent cookies, sandwiched together with utter sweetness, beckoning to be devoured. I just can't seem to get enough of them! I've made three variations in the last month, and I'm swooning over the heavenly goodness that continues to find its way out of my oven. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day (and my love for Baileys!), I decided to try an Irish Cream Whoopie Pie.
I adapted the cookie portion from the chocolate pumpkin whoopies I made in the fall. Then, I whipped up a delightful Baileys buttercream filling.

These turned out SO good... they're intoxicating!

Yields about 20 whoopie pies
For the cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup Baileys Irish Cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
12 tbsp (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp Baileys Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with non-stick baking mat or parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine butter and both sugars. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium/high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Adjust speed to low and gradually mix in half the flour mixture, then the Baileys and vanilla, and finish with the remaining flour mixture.

Drop tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies spring back when lightly touched. Place baking sheet on wire rack and let cool 5-10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling, combine butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add Baileys and beat until combined. Transfer buttercream to a prepared pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

To assemble, pipe filling on the flat sides of half the cookies then sandwich with remaining cookies.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Basketball Cake Pops

I'm back!! We had a great vacation... we spent the past week snowboarding in Snowshoe, West Virginia. Yep, you read it right. I went snowboarding! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm not an overly adventurous person. When we originally booked the trip I was signed up for skiing, but my husband is a snowboarder... so a few days before we headed north, he switched my rentals and lessons to snowboarding. My initial reaction was Is he insane?! But I went along with it and had a blast! I was pretty awful at first. I took a few brutal falls. But it was awesome! :)
What does snowboarding have to do with these cake pops? Well, we stopped at Starbucks on our way home to stretch our legs and refuel on caffeine. To my surprise, Starbucks is now selling cake pops and whoopie pies. I don't know that I will ever bring myself to buy them (since I make my own quite frequently), but they had a promotion where we got a free one with the purchase of a drink. I chose a cake pop for my freebie, and I was instantly craving more after eating it! So, I decided to whip up a batch this weekend. Since St. Patrick's Day is this week, I wanted to decorate them with green. But this week is also the beginning of March Madness (which I'm very excited about!) so I had to throw in a few basketballs too. Not that you should need a reason to make cake pops, but just in case... I've given you two. :)
I posted a pretty detailed "how to" when I blogged about my holiday cake pops, so if you've never made cake pops you may want to start there. You can obviously make whichever cake and frosting flavors you like... I went with a butter cake and cream cheese frosting for this batch. For the St. Patty's Day pops, I used green and white candy melts and green sprinkles. For the basketball pops, I tinted half of the melted white candy with an orange (oil based) candy coloring. After dipping the pops, once the orange candy had set, I melted dark chocolate for the basketball lines and used a candy squeeze bottle to draw them on.

Now you'll have to excuse me, I have a cake pop screaming my name! :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Banana Whoopie Pies

Lately, I have had whoopie pies on the brain... The red velvet ones I made for Valentine's Day were a huge hit. Matt has declared that he wants either those or a cookie cake for his birthday next month. "Seriously?" Was my response. And yes, he was serious. He would forgo an actual birthday cake for red velvet whoopie pies (because they were that dang good!). Now I know, whoopie pies were last year's trend. But I love them... I love the idea of them... I love the countless possibilities of flavor combinations. I have always been the person to catch onto trends a year two after everyone else, so why should that be in different with my baking. :)
I saw banana whoopie pies on one of Martha Stewart's Cookie of the Day emails. If you have not subscribed to these emails, I highly recommend that you do. I brainstorm a lot of new ideas by reading the various recipes that come through my inbox. After skimming over the recipe for the banana whoopie pies, I immediately started to think... what goes well with bananas? Well, there are a lot of things... but a no-brainer is peanut butter, so I decided to go that route with the filling. Yum! I also love bananas dipped in chocolate, so I thought I would spruce up half the batch with an added touch of sweetness. Yum, Yum!
These were well received by both my husband and my co-workers, so I definitely recommend that you try them!

Now, I have to leave you with this recipe while I go finish packing... we're heading out on vacation in the morning. Check back in a week or so, and I'll tell you all about it! :)

Yields about 30 whoopie pies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 cup raw sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Filling:
8 oz Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups confections' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Chocolate Topping:
6-8 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another small bowl, combine banana and sour cream.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beat until incorporated. Add banana mixture in two additions, alternating with flour mixture (you should begin and end with flour mixture).

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden and tops are set. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool.

For filling, cream the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add confectioners' sugar. Beat in vanilla.

To assemble, pair the cookies up according to size. Transfer filling to a clean pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe filling onto the flat side of one cookie from each pair, leaving a little room around the edges. Sandwich the cookies so that the flat sides are facing each other, pressing gently so that the filling reaches the edge.

Melt chocolate according to package directions; let cool slightly. Spoon chocolate over top of assembled whoopie pies. Garnish with chopped pecans or sprinkles before the chocolate sets.


Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Funfetti Cupcakes

I have another cupcake to share with you... a Funfetti cupcake!

I'm so happy to have a delicious recipe to blog about (it has been slim pickins these past few weeks!). We've been a little busier than usual, so time in the kitchen has been scarce. The next couple of months are looking just as busy, so I will really have to carve out some special time with my oven... bear with me!

Now, back to that cupcake... :) 
One of my dear co-workers is expecting her first child next month, a baby boy. I absolutely adore working with her, so I'm super excited for her and her husband! And of course, what better way for me to express my excitement than to bake up some yummy goodness. :) To celebrate the baby on the way, I baked the mother-to-be's favorite cupcake. When Erin mentioned that her favorite cake was funfetti, I was ecstatic! I love funfetti! I mean, who doesn't? And it makes a perfect celebration cake, don't you think? I have only ever made it from a boxed mix, so I was delighted at the opportunity to try a homemade version. So... out jumped the sprinkles and these FUNtastic goodies were born!
Yields 12 cupcakes
1 cup plus 6 1/2 tbsp cake flour (I know this measurement is random, but it works!)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup raw sugar
3 large egg whites
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer (on medium speed) until light and fluffy. Add egg whites and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed gradually mix in dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with buttermilk, ending with dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in sprinkles.

Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost cupcakes with buttercream frosting and sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles.

Source: adapted from Fake Ginger

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