Posted in daily, Entertaining, food porn, parties

That Long-Overdue Oscar Party Post

So this post has been…a little delayed, but I still wanted to talk about my Oscar party, because a friend of mine took such nice photos for me and it seems such a shame not to share them.

See? Thanks, dude. You’re my official party photographer from now on.

This is about the fourth or fifth year that I’ve hosted an Oscar party, and it is hands down my favorite to plan. I’m always trying to make or do something different than the year before, and this year was no exception. I tend to go with finger foods for my Oscar parties — just a tad more upscale than your run of the mill chicken fingers and pigs in a blanket. Not like caviar or foie gras on toast points, but something different and fun. Another factor this year was the necessity for a few make-ahead dishes. Thanks to an overnight shift at Job 2 the night before, I made a conscious effort to cut down on the amount of work I would need to do on the actual day. It’s smart to do this any time you’re entertaining, but it was a necessity for me this time around.

For my “main” offering, I (with the help of my friend Sara via text), came up with Mediterranean style sliders with all the fixings.

I used regular ground beef for the patties, adding garlic, onion, parsley, montreal steak seasoning, and some traditional kufta spices — allspice, coriander, and a tiny bit of cardamom and cinnamon. I served the sliders with mini pita rounds (OMG SO CUTE), and toppings like sliced plum tomatoes, caramelized onions, homemade tzaziki sauce, store bought harissa, and some homemade dakkous, a mild spiced tomato sauce, so kindly made by Sara. (Side note: I also had some crumbled feta to go with these, but totally forgot to put it out when the time came. We didn’t miss it.)

These were fun and super tasty and I will be making a regular burger sized version of them this coming summer, you mark my words.

My next offering was a tasty nibble I found via Pinterest, these sweet and spicy chicken/bacon bites. Diced chicken, wrapped in bacon, rolled in a brown sugar/spice mixture and baked. Easy to assemble, a great make-ahead option (I would not roll them in the spices until you’re ready to bake though), and just damn delicious. A hit all around.

I might need these again soon. For the protein, you know.

Because I can’t host a party without something on top of a slice of baguette, I threw together these crostini with sun-dried tomato jam and herbed goat cheese, an old favorite of mine. The tomato jam is better when you make it a few days ahead of time, and all you have to do to serve is toast the bread slices, stir a little fresh thyme into softened goat cheese and have at it.

I assembled mine a little differently than Giada did hers, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

Not pictured: Requisite crudite tray, because vegetables are boring. 

One thing I’ve started to do when entertaining is to offer a signature cocktail. Instead of assembling a full bar (which, let’s be real, my tiny kitchen is not equipped for), I serve just one main drink alongside a couple basic spirits, beer, or wine. This time around I crafted a pear sangria, made from pear juice, white wine, and a touch of St. Germaine. Fresh sliced pear to garnish.

Boozy! Careful with that one, it’s dangerous.

Along with our savory finger foods, I also served up some small(ish) desserts to finish up the evening. The first, which there’s no photos of because they were the last thing I served and we were all stuffing our faces full of sliders and bacon wrapped chicken deliciousness at that point, were my peanut butter tandy cakes. Always a hit.

Next were some white chocolate dipped strawberries. Simple, pretty, and…healthy? Mer. Maybe a little.

Also cute.

My final dessert was the result of seeing something on Pinterest and adapting it to suit my own cravings. I saw these mini cheesecake cookie cups and thought they would be perfect, but at the time I was planning this shindig I was craving lime. Specifically, key lime…anything. So I nixed the cherry pie filling from the original recipe, whipped up some key lime curd instead, and voila. Key lime cheesecake cookie cups. Big name. Tiny dessert. Freaking YUM.

Seriously, these might warrant a post of their own in the future.

Until then, I am working on ideas for my next party. Which is next week, so I might post about it by September.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

Cubano Sandwiches: My Weekend Project

In the day-to-day minutiae that has become my post-operative diet, I do get the occasional craving for a certain food or meal. I try to stay as vigilant as possible, but I’m not averse to treating myself to something tasty from time to time. This weekend was one of those times, and I blame Jon Favreau. Last week I watched the movie Chef on Netflix, forgetting just how much food porn was involved. If you haven’t seen Chef, you should. It’s totally funny and adorable, and one of my favorite movies of 2014. The soundtrack is pretty swinging, too. But the best part about the movie? The Cubanos.

Have you ever had a Cubano? It’s a hot pressed sandwich brought to the states by Cuban immigrants in Florida. It’s a soft fluffy roll, spread with good old yellow mustard and stuffed full with roasted pork, deli ham, swiss cheese, and pickles, and traditionally toasted on a flattop grill, or a plancha. It’s heaven on a bun, and damn it, I wanted one this week. So, while I was avoiding the arctic tundra outside, I set to making Cubano magic this weekend.

We start with a mojo (mo-hoe), or citrus marinade for the pork roast. Zest one grapefruit, two oranges, and two limes, juice all the fruit, and toss it all with the pork roast along with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Allow to marinate for about 25-30 minutes. Truss pork shoulder with string (or do like I didn’t and leave it in the string it comes in, silly goose), sprinkle all over with Goya Adobo seasoning, and spread minced garlic over the top (I honestly prefer the jarred garlic for this). Roast at 400 for an hour and a half to two hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 140-145 degrees (or however done you prefer your pork).

Cover with foil and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside. The pork can be made ahead of time – you can even make this as a main dish and use the leftovers when you’re in the mood for Cubano goodness.

Mmm, pork. Porky pork pork.

Now, time to make the sandwiches! Grab your other ingredients. 

Sliced deli ham, deli swiss cheese, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sliced dill pickles, and a soft roll. I used small club rolls to keep the sandwiches surgically-altered-stomach-friendly, but any soft roll will do.

Cubanos assemble! Spread each side of the roll with mayo and mustard, and layer the pork, ham, pickle, and cheese from bottom to top. Top with remaining half of roll. (Note: I heat the roasted pork and ham in a pan slightly before assembling, to make sure the sandwich is warm all the way through.)

Now, heat up your grill, griddle, or pan. I used my good old panini press. If you have a press with flat plates use that instead. If you don’t have a sandwich press, you can make these between two pans, using a couple large cans to weigh the top pan down. Spread the outside of the sandwich with some softened butter (I KNOW. You can skip this, but your bread might not be as toasty good as one would like.), and press on the grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and gooey.

Yum.

Slice in half and serve your new favorite sandwich.

Cubano Sandwiches

  • 3 lb Pork Shoulder Roast
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 limes
  • 2 oranges
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tsp Goya Adobo seasoning
  • 2 TB jarred minced garlic
  • Soft sliced rolls
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Sliced domestic swiss cheese
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Softened butter for toasting

Place pork roast in large bowl. Zest all fruit and set aside. Juice fruit and pour into bowl with pork and toss with zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Truss pork and place on roasting pan. Sprinkle Adobo all over roast. Spread minced garlic on top of pork and roast in oven at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the roast reads approximately 140 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside.

Heat a slice of pork and ham each in a small pan until warmed through and slightly browned. Spread mayonnaise, then mustard over each half of roll, top bottom half with pork, ham, pickle, and cheese, and top half of roll. Spread softened butter on outside of roll and toast sandwich on a panini press or sandwich grill for 3-5 minutes until the roll is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Posted in blogging, daily, dessert, filler, food porn, links, recipe

Recipe Round-up: Summer At Jenn’s

It’s June 20th, which means summer is here! And this year after such a miserable winter and a spring that was spent doing not much more than work, I’ve been looking forward to warm, sunny days and floating away the afternoon in the pool all the more.

Along with the sun and warmer weather comes recipes I love to dig out when it’s just “too damn hot to cook”, and I figured I would re-share them in case you needed some summertime inspiration.

Like this spinach and strawberry salad with goat cheese and citrus vinaigrette.

100_1250 by you.

Quick, easy, and perfect for Meatless Monday.

Or this Watermelon “Plank” salad with feta and balsamic glaze.

Wonderful as a main dish or as a side.

Here’s a ‘non-recipe’ post for a grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella panini with store made pesto and sun dried tomato spread, and a mango, black bean and quinoa salad. So easy, and great to take for a summer picnic, or tailgating at the drive-in, perhaps?

Can I get an amen?

This roasted parmesan zucchini is perfect if you’re a gardener with superfluous squash lying around.

Culinary OCD, that’s me.

And since you can’t have a “summer food” post without mentioning the holy mother of summer foods, here’s an Heirloom Tomato Crostini that is the best no-cook meal for the hottest nights of the season.

Gosh, I can’t wait for good tomatoes.

This kicked-up gazpacho is also perfect for all those fresh garden “‘maters”, and it makes a TON of soup. No worries about what to take for lunch for a week!

100_1297 by you.

And finally, since I can’t finish a post like this without a little something sweet, here is a peach blackberry crostata with honey-ginger glaze and cardamom spiced fresh whipped cream that is sure to impress any of your summer dinner guests.

I’m itching to make that one again, in addition to experimenting with some other summer crostatas.

Hope your summer is a fantastic one, kids. Spend time doing everything you want to do, or doing nothing at all.

 

 

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

“Borrowed” Bang Bang Shrimp

So…I have a slight problem. I took my very first trip to Bonefish Grill with some coworkers earlier this year, and made the mistake of ordering their Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer. It’s a lovely dish, sizzling hot crispy fried shrimp tossed with a spicy creamy dressing, served over a bed of cool lettuce. Ever since then, I need to have this dish at least once a month. Some might call this an obsession or addiction. I just say they’re damn good shrimp and I’m glad they’re half price on Wednesdays.

I saw a Bang Bang copycat recipe on Pinterest a while back and thought about giving it a try many times, but I always talked myself out of it for one reason or another. I hate deep frying in the house. What if there’s an ingredient I can’t find somewhere? What if the recipe is wrong and it doesn’t taste the same and I wasted how much money on fresh shrimp? And oh, hey, the restaurant is ten minutes away and they’ll make it for me, plus they’ve got some slamming cocktails. But…

sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it.

I read the recipe and realized I actually had everything I would need at home, with the exception of the shrimp. The sauce is simple, especially if you’re a condiment hoarder like me. And if you like spice? Even better. It’s not an overly spicy dish, but with a name like “Bang Bang Shrimp”, you know it’s got a kick to it.

Serve the shrimp in a fancy dish on a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce and some chopsticks and it’s like I’m AT the restaurant.

Minus my requisite martini.

Bonefish Grill Copycat Bang Bang Shrimp

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce
  • juice of one lime
  • pinch red pepper flake
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb 21-25 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup cornstarch seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Peanut oil, for frying (can use canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Set the oil on high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic, sriracha, lime juice, chili flake, salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside. Dredge shrimp in seasoned cornstarch and fry in batches for approximately three minutes (or until cooked through). Drain each batch on paper towels and immediately place in a bowl. Toss shrimp with a few spoonfuls of sauce until coated and place on bed of iceberg lettuce. Top with sliced scallions and serve.

Now, someone bring me a martini. Or two. This ain’t amateur hour.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.

The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.

I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.

And I was right.

I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed, with juice (mash them up a little with a fork or potato masher)
  • 1 cup merlot (use something you would drink. This is a personal favorite.)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • Salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch or two of sugar (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.

2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.

3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like. 

  • 1 medium potato, cut into large dice
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 TB grated parmigianno regianno
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.

Serve.

Posted in daily, food porn, Local Flavor, Uncategorized

Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Fest Burger & Beer Bash

Two weekends ago, the 4th Annual Lehigh Valley Food & Wine Festival was held at the Sands Event Center. The event was held over two and a half days, starting Friday afternoon and continuing through Sunday. I attended Friday night’s event, the Burger & Beer Bash (if I’m not mistaken, this is the first year they’ve held this event), and the Grand Tasting on Sunday (Next post).

The burger bash was held in a tent just outside the casino in the north parking lot. I found this a bit confusing, seeing as I had purchased my ticket at the Sands Event Center and as far as I could tell, there was no indication on my ticket that the event would take place on the north lot, nor did I see any signs that indicated where it was being held when I drove onto the casino grounds that night. I walked into the hotel and out around the Event Center looking for the Burger Bash before speaking to someone that actually knew where it was being held (note: this person had no affiliation with either the casino or the F & W event whatsoever, the one staff member I did flag down to speak to had no idea). Once I moved my car and parked in the parking deck, I then found out I had to walk into and through the casino to access the tent. A bit of a frustrating start to my evening.

But maybe it was just me and my infinite stupidity unable to find the tent, because by the time I actually got into the Bash it was pretty well packed, with lines at all the burger and beer tasting tables not 30 minutes into the event. There were a number of different restaurants offering up burger choices, ranging from Roosevelt’s 21st and Copperhead Grill to Pearly Baker’s and of course all of the Sands restaurants. Beer choices ranged from the mundane (Coors, Yuengling) to the more craft brew type (Goose Island, Victory).

Entertainment was provided by the Amish Outlaws, and if ArtsQuest is listening, they’d do well to book the Outlaws for a show at Musikfest because they are a hell of a lot of fun. They played covers ranging from country to hip hop and everything in between. My personal favorite was a cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger”. Yes, you read that right.

The venue was quite packed, which led to a longer wait at a few of the more popular burger stands, and, despite the size of the tent, there was some bottlenecking to get through the crowd at certain areas – specifically if there were two popular tables across from each other, but from all appearances the event seemed to be quite successful. I didn’t get to taste all the burgers, there were simply too many and personally, when I’m alone at a super crowded event like this I’m more of the “get in, get done, get home” type, so I didn’t linger. I was able to taste a good amount of the burgers, mainly focusing on the offerings from the Sands restaurants and other places that I’ve been meaning to try, like Sagra and Spuds. My personal favorite was the bruschetta burger from Emeril’s Italian Table, with the crab-stuffed burger from Spuds coming in second. The voters’ overall favorite, however, was the offering from Roosevelt’s 21st, which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to sample. I think I’ll try to tag team this event next year and split all the burgers in order to be able to taste them all.

That way I can go back for seconds.

Posted in daily, dessert, food porn, recipe

Peach Blackberry Crostata

Every summer I get anxious for peaches to come in season. They’re one of my favorite fruits, but I’m a bit picky about when I purchase/eat them. There seems to be about a 4 to 5 week period where the local peaches are just *perfect*. Fragrant, firm yet supple flesh, sweet, juicy to the point of messiness… Uh…peaches. I’m talking about peaches. I swear.

Round temptresses of fruity deliciousness.

Anyway. I’ve been all about baking with peaches this summer and experimenting with new flavors/spices. I attempted a peach/bourbon cupcake for a friend’s birthday party last month, but the peaches I had were just not that great, and the flavor just did not come through. I honestly think peaches and cake don’t mesh very well, unless the peach is in big slices throughout. Peach pie/pastry works much better for this very reason. The beautiful flavor/texture of the fruit takes center stage, while the pastry is more of a vehicle for peach enjoyment. A flaky, buttery Vespa, if you will.

In an email conversation with my mother a month or so ago, she mentioned making a peach/blackberry pie for my dad with some frozen peaches she had from last summer, and I was immediately jealous and plotting my own peach/blackberry deliciousness when peach season came around this year. This is what I came up with.

Before baking.

I really like the more rustic quality of the crostata (or tart, or free-form pie, whatever you’d like to call it). I think it’s got more personality and is, in its own way, prettier than a traditional pie. Also I can’t crimp a pie crust to save my damn life. This is easier and much less time-consuming. Including time for crust making/resting in the refrigerator, I literally had this made and in my mouth within an hour (hour and fifteen, tops). The wait nearly killed me.

I’m good.

Peach & Blackberry Crostata with Honey Ginger Glaze and Cardamom-Spiced Whipped Cream

For the Crostata:

  • 1 pastry/pie crust, store bought, or any recipe you prefer. I used Martha’s, but I might bulk it up a bit next time, the bottom ended up a little thin.
  • 4-6 ripe peaches
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg – beaten with a small amount of water (for egg wash)
  • 1-2 TB turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel, pit, and slice peaches. Toss with blackberries, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle counter liberally with flour/coat rolling pin. Roll out pastry on counter until it’s about 12-14 inches across and slide onto baking sheet. Pile peach/blackberry mixture onto dough, leaving a 1-2″ border outside. Fold dough up around the sides of the fruit mixture. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crust is browned and fruit is bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3-4 slices of fresh ginger

And the whipped cream:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

While the crostata is baking, heat honey and ginger in a small sauce pot over medium heat until honey is thinned out slightly and infused with ginger. Remove from heat, allow to cool and thicken slightly. Remove sliced ginger. Drizzle honey over warm crostata. Whip cream in electric stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer (or hell, just by hand), drizzling in sugar as it whips until soft peaks form. Stir in ground cardamom. Top still warm crostata with whipped cream and serve. Serves 4-6 people.

You need this in your life, truly.

Go forth and bake, Peaches.

Posted in dessert, eat something cute, food porn, recipe, Uncategorized

Margarita Whoopie Pies, Yes Ma’am.

I have a confession: I’ve never eaten a Whoopie Pie. Well, I don’t think I have. And it’s a damn shame, too. Two dense, moist, cakey chocolate cookies filled with fluffy frosting? Amazing. I think I always passed them over in favor for something else – a cupcake, or a lemon bar. As of now I’m officially adding whoopie pies to my list of favorite sweet treats. If you’ve never had a whoopie pie, or are only familiar with the chocolate version, perhaps you’ll add these to your list, too.

It started about two weeks ago, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest and decided to make them just to try them out. Instead of raspberry jam in the filling I added pureed fresh blackberries. They were fantastic, and  I immediately began brainstorming different flavor combinations for the basic recipe. I immediately thought of Key Lime Whoopie Pie, and I might give that a shot down the road, but for some reason my thoughts went more adult.

Not THAT adult, cheeky monkey.

Image
The Hello Kitty glass just screams “Grown Up”, right?

This adult. I love margaritas when they’re made properly. Good tequila, on the rocks, NO SALT. Keep my margarita simple. Don’t bruise my Patron in a blender, and for goodness sake, don’t drench the edge of my glass in extra salt.

Of course, I won’t fault you for how you enjoy your margaritas, but I will fault you if you choose not to make these.

Image

Margarita Whoopie Pies

Recipe adaptation from a basic version featured on Annie’s Eats. Yields approx. 24 2-inch cookies.

For the cookies:

8 TB unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp lime zest

21/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

2-3 TB White Tequila

For the filling:

4oz. cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 TB unsalted butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp lime zest

2-3 TB White Tequila (to taste)

Optional: Sprinkle of fleur de sel

Image

Making the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) cream together butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in egg, then egg white. Be sure to scrape down the side of the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla, lime zest, and tequila and blend completely. Reduce mixer speed and alternately add in dry ingredients and buttermilk until just incorporated, being careful not to over mix. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (I use a Wilton 1A), and pipe small rounds onto the parchment, not more than 2 inches across. Bake 7-10 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cake is puffed and just set. The tops of the cake should not brown, but will not yield when tapped with your finger. Remove from oven and let cakes cool on the baking sheets for ten minutes, then remove and cool completely. Match up cookies, matching according to size before filling.

Image

For the filling:

With a mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, lime zest, and tequila (you can add more or less to taste). On low speed, slowly incorporate sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until desired consistency and beat at medium high speed until smooth. You can add food coloring if desired. For this filling I added a few drops of neon green food coloring.

Note: if your filling seems a little “loose”, allow to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so until it firms up. I neglected to do this because I was eager for ERMAHGERD WHOOPIE PIES and I ended up regretting it, because my filling was a little gloppy and all over the place once I assembled the whoopie pies. 

Assembly: Transfer filling to another pastry bag filled with a smaller plain tip and pipe filling onto one half of each matched up pie, topping with the other half. Add a small sprinkling of fleur de sel to the outside of one quarter to one half of the filling if desired. (This step really makes the pies taste margarita-y, but you can certainly skip it.) Allow your whoopie pies to rest in the refrigerator over night before serving, if you can. Enjoy!

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I love these so hard. I still have a few in my refrigerator. I’m trying not to dive head first into the container.

Posted in food porn, links, parties and celebrations, Uncategorized

Stuff I Meant To Tell You About Forever Ago: A Very Pinteresting Party

Back in February I had a few friends over for an Oscar-watching party. It’s the second time I’ve done this, and I’m thinking it’s going to become a yearly tradition. Food-wise, I like to do it up a little fancier than I usually do for parties (it is the Oscars, after all), and to help me find the perfect finger foods to serve I turned to my new favorite time waster, Pinterest.

Seriously, who doesn’t love Pinterest? It’s like a visual orgy of pretty. Pretty food, pretty decor, pretty clothes, pretty men (you. are. WELCOME.). I’ve gotten a ton of new recipes from it, and I’ve actually cooked a fair few to great success.

Like this recipe for Asian meatballs. Wonderful flavor, and a great “make ahead” option.

Mine weren’t quite as pretty as the website, but I’m okay with that.

These French Dip Crescents with Au Jus were a huge hit. I cut the crescents in half, though, to make them more finger food friendly.

I love alliteration. And the spicy kick of horseradish sauce in those crescents. Make those, you’ll thank me. And your friends will kiss you.

I also served these puff pasty squares with goat cheese and raspberry-chile chutney. I didn’t find the recipe on Pinterest, but had made them for last year’s Oscar shindig and loved them so much I wanted to serve them again. Crispy pastry, creamy tangy goat cheese, and sweet/spicy jam.

Perfection. In the background you’ll notice my requisite veggie tray, which I usually always serve so I don’t overload on the less healthy options (Two different sour-cream  based dips notwithstanding, of course). Ah! and the hollowed-out-bell-peppers-as-dip-bowls? Pinterest!

On to my crowning achievement, the dessert tower.

Isn’t it glorious?

Since I decided to do three different mini desserts instead of just one, and I only had two days of prep time (and I’m not a masochist), I took some shortcuts. The first treats I made were mini red velvet cupcakes from a box mix. I did make the cream cheese frosting from scratch because canned frosting just isn’t the same, taste-wise. Nor does it pipe as prettily onto the cupcakes. I added the silver and gold sprinkles for a little glitz.

O U FANCY HUH.

Next were these two-ingredient lemon bars. I read the comments on the website before baking them, so I knew they wouldn’t turn out like the lemons bars I love, with the shortcake-type crust on the bottom and the gooey lemon curd-like center, but these were decent. A good idea to keep the ingredients on hand to throw together should you ever need a desert in a pinch.

Last were these Chocolate-Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats, which were like manna from heaven. I could have eaten the whole tray by myself. I was never a big Krispy Treat person before (too sugary, I think. Which makes no sense since we’re adding mini peanut butter cups and chocolate in the mix but whatever, these rule), but I will make the hell out of these again and again and again.

Definitely before next year’s Oscar party. Maybe even for my upcoming Cinco de Mayo party.

Which I will totally tell you about. Before July.

Posted in daily, dessert, eat something cute, food porn, recipe

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I know. Let’s just get right into it, shall we?

I love baking. I have since I was a kid. Every time my mom needed to make a box cake, she would let me take care of the mixing, baking, and frosting. It kept me quiet and gave me something to focus on besides the television or my latest issue of Tiger Beat magazine. I liked getting out the big mixing bowl and measuring cups, greasing and flouring the baking pans, mixing up the batter, and frosting the final product as prettily as possible (not all that pretty, actually). There was also the added bonus of getting to lick the batter remnants off the beaters. Mmm. Cake batter. It’s the holy grail of girl food.

Even though back then they were “only” box cakes and I’ve since moved on to baking mostly from scratch, I loved those cakes. They were tender, moist, and perfect.

So it was a bit upsetting when I started baking from scratch that my cakes were…just okay. To me, anyway. Adequate. Not as moist or as tender, no matter how I baked them. There was something missing, some key to making the perfect (in my eyes) cake.

Not flavor wise so much, if I must say myself I’ve come up with some great combinations — Pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting and banana ‘cakes with salted caramel buttercream have been my favorites. But when I bake the scratch cakes, even when the flavors are great, there’s something about the texture of the cake that seems…off. They get dry, the cake just isn’t as tender, and I am disappoint.

I worked out that (duh) it’s because box cakes use oil, instead of the butter that’s in most (okay, all) scratch cakes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love using butter in anything and everything. The flavor it imparts in baked goods is second to none. But I’ve noticed that the things I bake with butter are a bit…drier than those that I’ve used oil or shortening in.

(Side note: This is why my chocolate chip cookies are made with butter flavored shortening [Gah, yes, shortening, the root of all evil. Whatever. My chocolate chip cookies are AH MAH ZING and have gotten me everything from money to marriage proposals], because they have the flavor of butter and the soft, gooey moistness from shortening. Mmm, cookies. ::Homer Simpson noise::)

ANYWAY. I wanted to make cupcakes today for a coworker who’s been out on medical leave for a while and finally came back to work this week. He’s a huge fan of anything blueberry, so I searched and searched on the web for a blueberry cupcake recipe. I wanted one that was a yellow cake, not too dense, not too muffin-like. I wanted a box cake texture with scratch made flavor. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a recipe that used both oil and butter in which to achieve this. Being the OCD rule follower I am, I was a little nervous at the prospect of fooling with a recipe but it soon seemed as if I had no other choice.

A quick Google search for baking substitutions later and away we go. I used this recipe for the cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book, just substituting a small amount of vegetable oil for some of the butter. Instead of the whipped cream frosting I made a basic cream cheese frosting with lemon. The tang of the cream cheese and the sourness of the lemon balances nicely with the sweetness of the blueberries.

The butter/oil substitution worked out nicely, by the way. The cakes have a great flavor and are soft and moist, just like I was hoping for. I might mess around with the butter/oil ratio in the future in the search for “perfection”, but these were close. I hate to toot my own horn, but these cupcakes are pretty fantastic.

And I’m not all that crazy about blueberries.

Blueberry Cupcakes (Adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 TB baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature

Zest of one lemon.

2 cups fresh blue berries, tossed with an additional 2-3 TB flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcakes tin with paper liners, and spray the top lightly with cooking spray (so the tops of your cupcakes don’t stick!!). Sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

Cream butter and sugar together with mixer until pale and fluffy. Add oil and beat again. Add eggs one at a time and beat until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.

Working in alternating batches, add flour mixture and milk to batter, beating until combined after each addition. Beat in lemon zest. Add blueberries to the batter (toss the blueberries with flour so they don’t sink in the batter while baking!) and fold in gently by hand.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners using an ice cream scoop. Bake until pale golden brown, approximately 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes so the cakes don’t over cook. You can rotate pans at the halfway point to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting. Makes approx. 30 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

(Note: I make cream cheese frosting so often that I don’t really use a recipe, I just kind of throw it together, so if you have a cream cheese frosting recipe you prefer, feel free to use that instead and just add lemon for these cupcakes.)

2 12 oz bricks of cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

zest of one lemon

juice of one lemon

Beat together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar, 1/3 cup at a time, until fluffy and desired consistency. (You might not use the full 4 cups of sugar, you might use more. Just roll with it.) Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice (I used about 1/2 of the juice that I had, add it sparingly until you achieve the flavor you want). Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Frost or pipe onto cooled cupcakes and garnish as desired. (I used colored decorating sugar and fresh blueberries)