Friday, July 22, 2011

Ham & Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

I work with children for a living. Although I LOVE my job and the fact that all my co-workers are under the age of 5, meal times can be pretty stressful. I have come across more children that are picky eaters than not since working in my field. Where I come from, if you are not a foodie, there is something wrong with you. This goes for kids and adults alike.

Since kids need variety, just as adults do, I've had to become creative in the kitchen. I make a point to hide oodles of goodness in my kids food at every meal. They think they're eating muffins, but they are really devouring a good chunk of their daily nutrition.

I came across this muffin recipe when we were in North Carolina via New York en route to Florida in a Dallas newspaper. Take a moment to digest that. I ripped it out and saved it for a time I knew I would be desperate.

Well, desperation came knocking on the door this summer. Aside from the usual picky suspects, my daughter's eating habits have gone down the toilet since school let out and my son will eat anything within his grasp, I want to make it count.

My daughter calls them pizza muffins.

I call them a lifesaver.

Recipe adapted & slightly modified from The Dallas Morning News Newspaper

3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour (or a combination of both)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
4 tablespoons flax seeds
3 large eggs
cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (I used fresh chives in this recipe, but you can also use a finely diced medium onion and toss it in)
1 cup diced ham
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or use cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, cayenne pepper/chili powder, and flax seeds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions/chives/onion, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just moistened.  

Scoop the batter into prepared pan (heaping ¼ cup each for unlined muffin pan or scant ¼ cup each for lined.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Let the muffins cool in pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary). Transfer muffins to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Yields: 12 yummy muffins

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eton Mess

Wikipedia's definition of Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue, and cream. It is often served at Eton  College's annual cricket match against the students of Winchester College.

My definition of Eton Mess is a delectable English treat that consists of delicious, fluffy, marshmallowy clouds stacked on sweet, light, feathery snowflakes and intertwined with juicy, red strawberries that desire to be enjoyed with a magical harp playing softly while cherubs with the face of John Krasinski dance half naked around me, throwing rose petals, sunbeams, and sprinkled covered wishes my way.

This is seriously good stuff and the perfect dessert on a summer day. Although there is some debate as to whether a banana or strawberry should be used (apparently the creator of this dish used bananas as the fruit of choice), I decided to go with the strawberries and throw in a blueberry sauce. 

I'm such a rebel.

Adapted from The Joy of Baking

3 egg whites at room temperature
¾ cup superfine sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar, simply take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30-60 seconds in a food processor)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 200º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat egg whites with mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.  

Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.

Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag. I used a ziploc bag and a star tip to pretty it up a bit, but you don't need a bag or tip at all; you can use 2 spoons. Dollop onto prepared sheets. 

Bake the meringues for approximately 1½ to 1¾ hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. (The meringues will release easily from the parchment paper.)

Leave the meringues in the oven with door cracked to finish drying several hours or overnight. They can be covered and stored at room temperature for several days. 
Blueberry Sauce:

A pint of blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons orange juice

Place ingredients over stove and bring to a boil for about 7 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Be sure to de-stem and take out any wonky blueberries before placing on stove.

To assemble:
Start with a few meringues at the bottom of dish you will be using and begin the layering process of meringue, fruit, whipped cream, and blueberry sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

My church threw the best BBQs growing up. We were only a small congregation of about 75 people, but the food that would arrive was that of a 1000 people. Aside from all the usual hot dogs, burgers, potato & macaroni salads, the ladies of the church knew how to bake.

There was always an array of cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts. A staple dessert at the BBQ (and one of my most favorite summertime desserts to this day) is Strawberry Pretzel Squares. We also knew it as Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

When I was 11 years old, the only thing that stood between me and this gorgeous dessert was a scrawny boy named Keith. His mom made it and he KNEW how much I loved it. He was a year older than me and wouldn't let me near it until I kissed him. Boys were so icky until I was about 14, so on a scale of 1 to 10 on the Gross-o-meter, he was a 12. Of course, our Moms thought it was so cute. Gag.

I looked him up on facebook a few years ago. I love facebook just for that reason alone. I'm a total lurker. I don't necessarily want to befriend old acquaintances per se, I just like to see how kind Father Time is to people I grew up with.

Time served Keith very well. Although I don't know how many women Keith has held ransom to this dessert since, but to be fair, it is a dessert worthy of a kiss.

No matter how scrawny the boy is.


Recipe adapted from my Mom

2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups whipped topping, I used Cool Whip
2 packages strawberry gelatin, I used Jello Brand
1 pound fresh strawberries
(The original recipe actually calls for 2 packages of 10 ounce frozen strawberries. I LOVE fresh fruit and will use it if it's available. This step is delicious either way)

Note: This is a dessert that requires a few steps until completion. For best results, do not use shortcuts and allow for cooling and chilling times as indicated.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Using a blender, chop pretzels into very small pieces. 

In a bowl, combine pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Press into a 9 x13-inch pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. 

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust.

Refrigerate until well chilled or about 3 hours.

In a small bowl, prepare gelatin as instructed on box. Once prepared, place in fridge and chill until slightly thickened. (When I mean thickened, it will have a 'ripple' when jiggled.)

Pour gelatin over cream cheese mixture and add fresh strawberries on top, pushing down gently until submerged. I add the strawberries after so they are evenly distributed across the dish. If using frozen strawberries, add them TO the gelatin and then pour over cream cheese mixture. 

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best results.

Happy Baking!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Black Bean Brownies with Goat Cheese Topping - Gluten-free!

Yes, you read right.

Black Bean Brownies with Goat Cheese.

Would you believe me if I told you they are unbelievably tasty? If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you are gonna. love. me.

My husband recently had some testing done for gluten intolerance and the results came back positive. We've suspected he's had one for a long time; it was just a matter of proving it. Of course, for someone that bakes predominately with wheat flour, I realized I needed to find some recipes that are gluten-free so my husband can enjoy a tasty treat every now and again.

I'm awesome like that.

I went to Whole Foods the other day and noticed a chocolate cake recipe using black beans hanging out in the canned beans section. A co-worker of mine sent me a very similar recipe not too long before that for brownies, but at the time, I put it in the 'Will Try Someday' section of my ever growing recipe folder. When I saw this recipe again, I felt the beans were calling me, either that or I'm losing my mind. Let's say it was the beans.

I'm kind of glad they did. It's a nice change up from traditional brownies, although I will never give those up.

But I wouldn't pass on these either.


1 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
cup melted butter
¼ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup finely chopped coconut
a pinch of ancho chili powder
cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Goat Cheese Topping
½ cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
1 egg
1½ tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the black beans, sugar, eggs, melted butter, cocoa, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure all the beans are completely pureed. If you don't have a food processor because a previous recipe broke it, you can also use a blender.

Remove the blade or transfer into a bowl and gently stir in the chocolate chips, coconut, chili powder, and walnuts if using.

Transfer brownie mixture to the prepared pan. Drop goat cheese mixture onto brownie mixture and swirl using a skewer.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes, or until just set in the center. Cool before cutting into squares.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes

If you've ever moved away from home, you know how tough it is. Aside from missing the obvious, one thing you miss terribly is the food.

Oh, the food.

I can’t tell you how often I crave food from home. When I was pregnant with both my kids, my cravings were almost animalistic for my Mom's homemade macaroni and cheese, pizza from our local tavern, iced tea that is brewed and packaged right in town, and the biggest craving by far was for Butterscotch Krimpets by Tastykake

Ah, Tastykake. You delightful baked good manufacturer.

Tastykakes are mainly available in the Philadelphia area, Southern New Jersey, Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as random parts along the east coast - mainly touristy areas.

Last year while my family and I were vacationing in Florida, we found a shelf of them and I literally jumped up and down I was that excited! I may have even wet myself, but I can’t confirm as I did knock my daughter’s water cup out of her hand. I ended up walking out of the store with 6 boxes and very wet shorts.

Of course, I was craving them today and naturally, I wanted them now. I knew I had a copycat recipe for a Tastykake, but I couldn’t remember which one.

Then I found it. Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes.

I jumped up and down I was so excited! I think I may have wet myself, but I can’t confirm, because I knocked my daughter’s juice cup out of her hand.

She really needs to step back when she sees Mom going for the high kick.


4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups peanut butter
1½ cups of GOOD chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet choco chips)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine wet ingredients; eggs, milk, vanilla and butter. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients; flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until well blended.

Pour mixture onto a well greased jelly roll pan (use at least a 10x15 size if possible) and bake for 15 -20 minutes.

While cake is still hot, spread peanut butter carefully over cake evenly.

Freeze for about an hour to solidify. Once frozen, use a circlular shaped cutter, glass, or cup to cut cakes. I used a child's cup as it yielded a perfect Kandy Kake size.

*NOTE You can certainly skip the cutting into circles step. To finish cake off, melt chocolate in micorwave for about 30 seconds and mix until smooth. Pour chocolate directly on top of CHILLED peanut butter. Return to fridge to harden and cut into slices/bars.

Moving on with the cut out cake....

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, dip rounds, and let cakes cool on parchment paper.

Keep chilled for best results and the all important 'snap' factor upon biting into the cake!

Yields: About 18 cakes.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brown Sugar Pound Cake/Piloncillo Bread

Don't you love when a bad situation has a happy ending? Let me tell you about my baking blunder.

A few posts back, I spoke of my friend, Daniela, who hails from Mexico. She has introduced me to some knock-your-socks-off Mexican recipes, like Calabaza en Tacha and Tres Leches Cake. Problem is, when she makes treats as such, it's usually from ingredients her parents brought from home and I can't get locally. Boo.

Daniela brought her kiddies over the other day for a playdate and thoughtfully brought along 2 bags of piloncillo granulado. Piloncillo is basically Mexico's version of brown sugar, but it's very hard in texture with a much stronger molasses flavor than the brown sugar used in the US or Canada. It's also most often sold in cone or block form. This stuff is so versatile and so good!

My intention was to make the pound cake and crush the piloncillo pellets into the batter so as it bakes, it will leave each bite with a lovely punch of flavor.

When I realized it was too tedious to cut all these pellets into pieces (and waaaay too hard to crush with my bare hands), I pulled out the food processor, thinking I was smart and saving some time. Uh….no. Those little buggers actually broke the blade off! *Sigh*.

Not to be defeated, I decided to melt the pellets down to a syrup like they do when making Tacha and just add it to the batter for an all over unique flavor.


It was amazing! I made a sauce with the last bit of syrup that was left in the pan. It was OVER THE TOP delicious! It's a bit like Sticky Toffee Pudding, but without the use of dates.

I love happy accidents.

My food processor does not.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
5 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup of piloncillo syrup (You can substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar and 3 teaspoons molasses to get a comparable flavor of the piloncillo)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour two 8x4 loaf pans. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture and blend well. Fold in piloncillo syrup.

Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for about an hour. Cool 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream or for a richer treat, drizzle with piloncillo toffee sauce.

To make piloncillo toffee sauce, boil the remainder of piloncillo to a paste.

Mix 1 cup paste, 1 cup heavy cream and 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk until fully incorporated and thick.

Happy Baking!

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