Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Honey Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

My mom is so great. Everywhere she goes, she brings me little gifts, very often food-related gifts. This past week, she had two gifts for me! She brought me lavender whipped honey from Jean-Phillipe Patisserie at The Bellagio and the most delicious pecan honey from Sedona. I couldn't wait to use either of them, especially the pecan honey. It has a deep, dark color similar to molasses and a full-bodied flavor that made me think I was eating a Fall dessert, even though it's STILL August. (When does summer end already?)

Martha Stewart's instructions said the stronger the honey's flavor, the more it will come through in this dense cake. Since the pecan honey has a deep, dark color similar to molasses and a full-bodied flavor, I decided to use it. The cake came out dense and moist with a wonderfully comforting old-timey feel. It made me think I was eating a Fall dessert, even though it's STILL August. (When does summer end already?) Yes, Martha. This cake is a good thing.

Honey Cake with Honey Cream-Cheese Frosting
The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook


For the cake:
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey
appropriate garnish (pecans, dried lavender, orange curls, etc. depending on honey type)

For the frosting:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (I used low fat)
1/4 c. honey


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the center position.  Butter or spray an 8x8x2 pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper, tapping out the excess.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add sugar and honey. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the egg mixture a few TBSP at a time, beating well for 2 to 3 minutes after each addition. Raise speed to high, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until thick and light in color, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating just to combine after each addition.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Put in oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.

7. Transfer to a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn cake out of pan and place on a wire rack and top up. Remove parchment paper and let cool completely.

8.  While the cake cools, make the frosting in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment by beating the cream cheese on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add honey and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

11. Transfer cake to a serving platter. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the top of cake. Garnish as desired.

Greek-Style Turkey Burgers with Lemon-Mint Tzatziki

Oh. My. Goodness. These were so delicious. I will absolutely be making these again and probably soon. They were so easy, very healthy, and most importantly--delicious. I encourage you to try them soon. They're great for this time of year. They're hearty but still light and fresh tasting. Opa!!

Greek-Style Turkey Burgers
adapted from Gourmet Magazine


For the tzatzkik:
3/4 c. plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
1/2 large English cucumber, seeded 
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

For the burgers:
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives (12 to 15)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. bread crumbs (may not need)
whole wheat hamburger buns
2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced


1. To make the tzatziki, coarsely grate the cucumber. Drain it in a strainer for one or two minutes, pressing out the liquid.  In a medium bowl stir together yogurt, cucumber, oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, and mint. Season with salt and pepper.  Make at least an hour ahead; sauce will keep in an airtight container for three days. 

2. For the burgers, prepare grill or grill pan over medium to medium-high heat.

3. Handling turkey as gently as possible, combine in a bowl with feta, olives, and bread crumbs, if necessary.  Form into six 1-inch-thick patties.

4. Season burgers lightly with salt and pepper to taste and grill on an oiled rack or pan. Cook nine minutes on each side for medium well doneness.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Omnivore's Hundred

I started hearing about this list just a little bit ago. Then my girls over on What's Cooking were buzzing about it. It sounded intriguing. It was really interesting to go through and take a sort of an inventory of the foods I've tried, haven't tried, and never would try. I consider myself a very adventurous eater, but a few of these got me!

Have you done your Omnivore's Hundred? If not, hop on over to Very Good Taste and get to work! You are supposed to go through the list and bold or highlight the items you have eaten. Then you cross out or note the items you would not even try. As the blog says, if you don't know what some of these are, Wikipedia does!

My score--54. I guess I've still got lots of new things to try!

The Omnivore’s Hundred

seen on Very Good Taste

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (I couldn't do this one)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (probably not)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (no on the cigar)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (not unless my life depended on it)
43. Phaal (I don't care for curry, but I'd try it)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (I couldn't find any culinary information on this)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis (I'm Scottish, so I'd suck it up and try this one)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (Did I just hit it or has it been sitting there?)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Margarita Cupcakes

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but teachers like to drink. A lot. I mean, cut us a little slack people...we're in a room with 30 kids all day long. Don't get me wrong, I love being a teacher. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But still, the drinking is necessary. Sadly, happy hour isn't usually until Friday.
I took this unfortunate matter into my own hands this week. It was the first week of school, which is always exhausting, and I knew we'd need a little pick me up during our Thursday afternoon staff meeting. So I brought these cupcakes and pina colada cupcakes. I put a little sign next to them that said "Sometimes Friday is too long to wait for happy hour. So enjoy your margarita or pina colada now!"
They were a huge hit. If there was a teacher popularity contest, I would definitely bring these. I'd win for sure.

Margarita Cupcakes

seen on Confections of a Foodie Bride

For the cupcakes:
9 oz. Margarita mix
3 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
White cake mix (No-pudding mix works best)
3 egg whites
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP lime zest

For the frosting:
4 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 TBSP lime juice
green and yellow food coloring (optional)

1. Mix together the margarita mix, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. You will use 1 1/4 cup of this in the cupcake mix. Put the remainder in the fridge to chill and then consume how you see fit.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest, and 1 1/4 cup of the margarita mixture. Mix on low for about 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed for two minutes (the batter will still be a bit lumpy).

3. Scoop the batter into a prepared muffin pan using a standard-sized scoop and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick registers “done” in the center cupcake.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a baking rack.

5. While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting by adding the butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt, food coloring, and lime juice to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is fluffy.  Frost and decorate cupcakes, as desired.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

I brought these along with some margarita cupcakes to my staff meeting during the first week of school. They were a huge hit and everyone was so impressed with how adorable they look!

Pina Colada Cupcakes
from Good Things Catered


2 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canned pineapple, diced and patted dry
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
Splash of dark rum (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
whipped vanilla frosting
1/2 bag of shredded coconut
Maraschino cherries, drained and dried


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with baking cups.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Combine rum and coconut milk in small bowl, mix to combine and set aside.

4. Place sugar and oil in mixer and mix until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add flour mixture and coconut milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Stir in vanilla and fold in pineapple.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Tap the pans once on counter top to remove air bubbles.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

7. When cupcakes are completely cool, frost with whipped vanilla frosting and roll tops in shredded coconut. Top each with a cherry and serve with cut straws for a fun presentation!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Whole-Wheat Penne with Turkey Sausage, Peas, and Mushrooms

I'm always on the lookout for simple, weeknight meals that will yield tasty leftovers I can take for lunch the next day. I know there are some haters out there, but Giada has never done me wrong in the tasty meal/tastier leftover department. Maybe it's because I'm not Italian and didn't grow up with my Italian grandmother, mother, and aunts slaving away in the kitchen and giving me pointers on how to feed the masses, but I really like Giada's recipes. And honestly, most of her meals taste better the next day, when the flavors have had more time to develop and mesh. This one was mighty tasty for dinner, so we'll see how it is for lunch tomorrow!
Whole-Wheat Penne with Turkey Sausage, Peas, and Mushrooms
adapted from Everyday Italian, by Giada DeLaurentiis

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. hot Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I had to use button mushrooms)
1 (10 oz.) package frozen peas, defrosted slightly
1 pound dried whole-wheat penne
1/2 c. freshly-grated parmesan cheese


1. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil.

2. In a large saute pan over high heat, add 2 TBSP olive oil. Season turkey with salt and pepper. Add turkey and saute, breaking any large lumps until golden brown. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

3. Add 2 TBSP olive oil to pan and heat. Add chopped mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the peas and saute for 4 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. When the pot of water has come to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.

6. Return pasta to the pot and add the meat mixture. Combine thoroughly and gently cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drizzle in remaining olive oil. If the mixture is dry, do not hesitate to use more olive oil, if necessary.

7. Check the seasoning. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir well and serve in large bowl.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Zucchini-Lemon Muffins

Ahhh, back to school time. Bittersweet. Mostly sweet, actually, but it's always difficult to face the fact that your days of sleeping past 5:30 a.m. are over for another nine months. To celebrate the teachers' first day back, a few of us on staff prepared a breakfast. We kick the year off with a big, long meeting, so food is a must. I decided to do a big ole' muffin basket.

I knew I had my work cut out for me when I decided to bake four kinds of muffins in one night. So, I named the evening "Muffin-palooza" and went to work!

Zucchini-Lemon Muffins
The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook


2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 c. coarsely shredded zucchini
3/4 c. skim milk
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 large egg
cooking spray

Directions:1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a twelve-cup standard muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl, and make a well in center of mixture.

3. Combine zucchini, milk, oil, and egg; stir well. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

4. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan immediately, and let cool on a wire rack.

Blueberry-Yogurt Muffins

Another contribution to "Muffin-palooza". These were so good I ended up making a double batch for my roommate and I to enjoy! We weren't the only ones who loved them, though. They were a big hit with the teachers. A great, lower fat alternative to traditional blueberry muffins!

Blueberry-Yogurt Muffins
The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook


cooking spray
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. orange juice
2 TBSP vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
1 TBSP sugar (I prefer raw turbinado for this usage)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare twelve-cup standard muffin tin with coking spray.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

3. Combine orange juice, oil, vanilla, yogurt, and egg. Add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moist.

4. Gently fold in blueberries.

5. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle sugar evenly over muffin tops.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Remove muffins from tin immediately and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Whole-Wheat Apple Walnut Muffins

Another contribution to the "Muffin-palooza" muffin basket I brought to my school's first day back breakfast. These will be great for Fall.

Whole-Wheat Apple Walnut Muffins
adapted from Joy of Cooking


Whisk together thoroughly:
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
scant 1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together in a large bowl:
2 large eggs
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar

Stir in and let stand for ten minutes:
1 1/2 c. packed coarsely grated peeled apples (about two medium), with juice

Stir in:
5 TBSP warm melted unsalted butter
1/2 coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard twelve-cup muffin tin or prepare with paper cups.

2. Add the flour mixture to the apple mixture. Fold in until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix; the batter will not be smooth.

3. Divide batter among the muffin cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes.

4. Let cool for three minutes in the pan before removing. Transfer to wire rack. Serve as soon as possible, preferably the day they are baked.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tasty Tools--Chicken Enchilada Casserole

So, I'm back from my summer travels and ready to get back into the swing of things. I've barely cooked all summer and couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen. I've especially missed being able to send in contributions to Joelen's "Tasty Tools" event. This month, Joelen is having us focus on one of my favorite multi-use tools, the whisk. I was craving something that would have a lot of flavor, but wouldn't be too heavy or calorie laden. This was perfect.

As the beginning of the school year is always so insanely busy, I wanted to make a larger recipe so I could freeze half of it. I did all the steps up to assembly, then split the components and put together two separate casseroles. I froze one of the assembled casseroles, as "Cooking Light" said I could. I just baked the other, adjusting the baking time. I've posted the original baking time with the recipe. I ended up baking my half portion for a total of 25 minutes.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
adapted from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
printer-friendly recipe

cooking spray
1 1/4 lbs. skinned, boned chicken breast
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. beer or chicken stock
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
4 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 (4.5-oz.) cans chopped green chiles, drained
5 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4tsp. ground cumin
2 c. 1% low-fat milk
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 (6-in.) corn tortillas, cut in half
1/2 c. low fat or fat-free sour cream
1/2 c. salsa

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from skillet; let cool. Shred chicken with 2 forks; set aside.

3. Recoat skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.

4. Add shredded chicken, beer, red pepper, and tomatoes; cook 6 minutes or until most of liquid evaporates. Remove from heat.

5. Reserve 1 tablespoon green onions for garnish. Stir remaining green onions and chiles into chicken mixture; set aside.

6. Combine flour, salt, and cumin in a separate, medium saucepan.

7. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Place over medium heat; cook 7 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly.

8. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg whites, stirring constantly with whisk. Set aside.

9. Place cheeses in a bowl; toss well. Set aside.

10. Spread 1/2 c. white sauce in bottom of a 2 1/2-quart round casserole or soufflé dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 tortilla halves over sauce; top with 2 c. chicken mixture, 1/2 c. white sauce, and 1/2 c. cheese mixture. Repeat layers twice, ending with sauce. Set remaining 1/2 c. cheese mixture aside.

11. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes or until hot.

12. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c. cheese mixture and reserved green onions; bake an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

NOTE: You can assemble the casserole ahead of time; cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight, then bake at 350º for 1 hour or until bubbly. Or freeze casserole, thaw in refrigerator 24 hours, then bake for 1 hour or until thoroughly heated.