Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream

August 24th, 2009 by andrea | 3 Comments | Filed in Baking, Cakes, Dessert, Recipes


Imagine crossing lemon cupcakes with cheesecake. What do you get? Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream. That’s right…dense lemon-flavored cupcakes with a surprise dollop of lemon cream cheese filling baked into the middle. It’s like 2 for the price of 1. lemon-cream-cupcake-inside1

I chose these cupcakes for two reasons: the Birthday Teen loves lemony treats and the recipe made a small batch (I was able to get 6 cupcakes out of the recipe instead of 4). The Birthday Teen quickly inhaled two of them, which is always a good sign. The cupcakes took a few minutes longer to get golden brown around the edges (could be my old oven’s fault). To make the cupcakes look a bit more festive, I made a quick lemon juice and powdered sugar glaze and slathered a little on top of each cupcake. I then sprinkled the cupcake tops with yellow decorating sugar. Skipping the glaze and dusting with powdered sugar would also be a nice touch.

For other cupcake & muffin recipes, check out Cupcake Tuesday.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream
- recipe from

Yield: Makes 4

3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream cheese (about 2 ounces), softened 

Preheat oven to 350° F. and line four 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Into a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk in 2 teaspoons zest. In another bowl with a fork blend butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon juice until smooth. With a wooden spoon beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until smooth. Stir butter mixture into flour mixture until batter is combined well.

In a small bowl with a fork stir together cream cheese and remaining 1/2 teaspoon zest, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon juice until lemon cream is smooth.

Spoon 3 level tablespoons batter and about 1 tablespoon lemon cream into each paper liner. Spoon remaining batter over lemon cream, smoothing tops. Bake cupcakes in middle of oven 20 minutes, or until golden brown, and transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 4 cupcakes.


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Mango Bellini

August 22nd, 2009 by andrea | 4 Comments | Filed in Beverages, Cocktails, Recipes


Here’s an updated version of the bellini, a cocktail that originated in Italy that consists of sparkling wine and white peach purée. This recipe features mango nectar (or juice) instead of peach purée. It’s beautiful, festive and delicious! This cocktail would be a perfect beginning to a brunch or an al fresco (outdoors) dinner party. For an extra ”pop” of color, garnish each champagne flute with 3 whole raspberries.

As a side note, my pretty French Country flutes are made by Mikasa. If you don’t already have champagne flutes, you should buy a few. They don’t take up much space and they make a celebration that much more special!

Mango Bellini
-makes 1 drink.

1 part mango juice
2 parts chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
3 whole raspberries

Fill a champagne flute one-third full with mango nectar. Top with sparkling wine, leaving a little room for the raspberries, and stir gently. Place raspberries in champagne flute. Enjoy!


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Blackberry Syrup

August 19th, 2009 by andrea | 5 Comments | Filed in Breakfast, Dessert, Sauce


In Oregon, blackberry brambles grow like weeds. They’re everywhere…sprouting up in fields, bare lots, backyards, and alongside rural or not-so-rural roads. Except for the impending scratches and pricks from the thorny vines, I love picking blackberries! I love the sweet smell emanating from the warm berry bushes on a hot summer’s day, and I love how a perfectly ripe berry burst with juice when eaten. Ahhh, it’s blackberry heaven!

The other day I stopped along a country road to pick a few berries (at least that was the plan) but ended up with a bucket of them because I just couldn’t stop myself. How could I let these precious ripe berries go to waste? I couldn’t, so I kept on picking them. Once I got home, I spread the perfect berries out on a cookie sheet, covered them with a damp towel and placed them in the refrigerator, fully intending to make a cake or a pie the next day.

Well, my schedule got busy and two days passed before I had a chance to do anything with them. Since my kids had been asking for pancakes, I decided to make syrup out of the berries. And let me tell you, it’s delicious! The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice to the syrup while it reduced just to cut the sweetness a bit (they were very sweet berries). I didn’t do the hot-water processing for the syrup (under the instructions for canning) but I did boil the jars to sterilize them like the recipe instructs. Syrup done this way will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Fresh Berry Syrup
-recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine 

This master recipe works well with a variety of summer berries. The thickness of the syrup will depend on the berries you use: Some are juicier, resulting in a thinner syrup, while others, like blueberries, have more pectin, yielding a thicker syrup. If you prefer to skip the canning process, you can store the covered jars in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; to extend the shelf life, follow the canning instructions below. Yields 1 to 2 cups.

3 cups fresh berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries), washed and trimmed as needed and halved if large
1-2 cups granulated sugar

Bring water to boil in a large pot fitted with a rack. Carefully, put 2 empty half-pint (8 fl. oz.) Mason jars and their lids and screw-on bands in the water and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Remove the jars, lids, and bands with tongs and set on paper towels to drain.

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, crush the berries with a potato masher. Add 1/4 cup water (if using strawberries, add 1/2 cup water). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the berries are very soft and juicy, about 5 minutes.

Set a fine sieve over a bowl. Pour the berry pulp into the sieve and allow the juice to drip through. Gently press the pulp with a rubber spatula to extract as much juice as possible, but don’t press so hard that you force the pulp through.

Clean the saucepan. Measure the juice and then pour it into the saucepan. For every 1/4 cup juice, add 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the syrup is viscous but still runny, about 1 minute. Skim the foam with a spoon and pour the syrup into the sterilized jars. If you’re not canning the syrup, put the jars on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Screw the lids and bands on and refrigerate the syrup for up to 2 weeks. If the syrup thickens during storage, stir to loosen it before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To can the syrup:
Bring water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a rack insert. Carefully put 4 empty half-cup (4 fl. oz) Mason jars (use 8 if you’re doubling the recipe) or 2 empty half-pint (8 fl. oz.) Mason jars (use 4 if you’re doubling the recipe) and their metal screw-on bands in the water and reduce the heat to a simmer; simmer until ready to use. Heat the lids in very hot water for 5 minutes to soften the flange. (Don’t boil the lids when canning, as it might damage them and compromise the seal later.)

Remove the jars and rims with tongs, emptying the water from the jars. Pour the syrup into the jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headroom. Wipe the rims clean of any spilled syrup and affix the metal lids onto the jars with the screw bands. Turn the bands only fingertip tight; don’t close them as tight as you can, or you may compromise the seal.

Put the jars in the pot fitted with the rack insert and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil briskly for 10 minutes.

Transfer the jars to a rack. Allow them to cool for 12 to 24 hours. You should hear a popping sound as the vacuum seals the lid to the jar. When the syrup is completely cool, check the seals by pressing on the lids. The lids should be taut and pulled down toward the inside of the jar. If a lid bounces when you press on it, the seal is imperfect, and you will have to repeat the canning process with a new lid, or simply refrigerate the syrup and use within two weeks. You can also remove the bands and try to pick up the jars by holding onto the rim of the lids. If the lids are tight, your seal is good.

Keep the bands in place when transporting the jars, but you do not need to store them with the bands on. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Once a jar is opened, refrigerate the syrup for up to 2 weeks.

Make ahead tips:
Syrup that’s not hot-water processed will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

- Lemon Blueberry Syrup: Use blueberries and add 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest to the syrup while still hot.
- Raspberry Mint Syrup: Use raspberries and crush three sprigs fresh mint with the berries.
- Blackberry Thyme Syrup: Use blackberries and crush three sprigs fresh thyme with the berries.
- Strawberry Balsamic Syrup: Use strawberries. While they syrup’s still hot, add 3/4 tsp. balsamic vinegar per 1/2 cup of syrup.

Serving suggestions:
Berry syrups are terrific on pancakes and ice cream or stirred into plain yogurt, rice pudding, and oatmeal. Or try brushing them over baked ham or a pork roast to create a sweet, fruity glaze. And for a delicious homemade soda, add one part syrup to two parts chilled seltzer water.



Green Beans Vinaigrette

August 12th, 2009 by andrea | No Comments | Filed in Quick Cooking, Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian


This is a perfect summery side dish: crisp-tender green beans tossed with a light, lemony vinaigrette. It’s simple, tasty and very easy to make. 

Even though the vinaigrette is delicious as is, I added a small amount of Dijon mustard for a little added pizazz. To make sure that each green bean was evenly coated with the dressing, I tossed the green beans first with the vinaigrette before piling them on the plate and drizzling with more vinaigrette. I substituted thinly sliced red onions for the shallot, and finished with a sprinkle of kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper. Yumm!

Green Beans Vinaigrette
-recipe from

On their own, lettuce, radicchio, green beans, or corn might be a tad ho-hum. But toss them with Lemon Vinaigrette, and you’ve got four stellar sides to sample. Keep a jar of the dressing in the fridge, and let it upgrade all sorts of veggies.

Makes 6 servings.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed
1 shallot, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Fill a medium bowl with ice water; set aside. Set a steamer basket in a large saucepan with a lid. Fill with enough salted water to come just below basket; bring to a boil. Place green beans in basket, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pan; steam until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice water to stop cooking; drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Place on a serving platter. Top with shallot, and drizzle with vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper. 

Lemon Vinaigrette
Try using this lemon vinaigrette to upgrade all sorts of veggies. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup olive oil

In a medium bowl or jar, combine lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, coarse salt, and ground pepper. Whisk, or cover and shake, until salt and sugar have dissolved. Add oil; whisk or shake until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.


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Roast Beef and Two-Chile Grilled Cheese on Onion Rolls

August 7th, 2009 by andrea | No Comments | Filed in Quick Cooking, Recipes, Sandwich


I love this spicy, southwestern-inspired sandwich!  The toasted onion rolls are a creative foundation for the sandwich, while the chipotle mayonnaise adds heat and tons of flavor. I slathered a little chipotle mayo on the cut side of each bun half and used only 2 slices of cheese per sandwich, one on the bottom bun and one on the top bun. I had one sandwich leftover that I refrigerated and ate cold the next day…it was just as delicious as the hot version (just without the crunchy texture). I used my electric panini press to grill the sandwiches, but the recipe has instructions on how to cook them in a frying pan, too. Serve with a big salad or cut veggies.

Roast Beef and Two-Chile Grilled Cheese on Onion Rolls
-recipe from Sunset Magazine, July 2009

We love how spicy this sandwich is, but if you prefer less heat, cut back on the chipotle mayo and the green chiles.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles (about 4 small chiles)
4 onion rolls
About 2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 pound pepper jack cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 pound thinly sliced rare roast beef
4 canned mild green chiles, seeded, split, and dried with paper towels

Stir together mayonnaise and chipotles and set aside.

Preheat a panini press* to 350° (medium heat). Brush the outsides of rolls with oil. Split rolls. Spread bottom halves with 1 1/2 tsp. chipotle mayo each, then top each with 2 slices cheese; 2 or 3 slices roast beef; 1 chile, opened up flat; and 2 more slices cheese.

Spread top halves of rolls with 1 1/2 tsp. chipotle mayo each and place on tops of sandwiches. Grill sandwiches 2 at a time until crisp and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 sandwiches. Let sandwiches cool slightly, then slice with a serrated knife and serve.

*If you don’t have a panini press, use two pans to achieve the same effect: Cook your sandwiches in a frying pan or cast iron skillet and weight them with a heated cast iron skillet.


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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

August 4th, 2009 by andrea | 1 Comment | Filed in Potatoes, Quick Cooking, Side Dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian


Have you ever seen those funny-looking, elongated, slightly knobby fingerling potatoes at the grocery store? Next time you do, buy a few pounds of them. This super simple recipe is an excellent way to use this root vegetable. All you do is scatter the clean potatoes on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until tender. For a little extra color, sprinkle the roasted potatoes with some chopped fresh parsley. And there you have it…a perfect side dish for chicken, beef or pork!

Note: This recipe originally called for crushed garlic but it turned into charred little bits in the high oven heat. Burnt garlic doesn’t do anything for me so I wiped it off the potatoes and scratched it off the recipe.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
- adapted from a recipe

4 servings.

2 pounds small fingerling potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, 1 to 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 500 degrees F.

Spread potatoes out on a cookie sheet. Coat lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and season potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.


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Thai-style Grilled Chicken Breasts

August 1st, 2009 by andrea | 3 Comments | Filed in Asian, Chicken, Grilling/BBQ, Main Dish, Quick Cooking, Recipes


If you like the flavors of Thai food then you’ll love this simple grilled chicken recipe. After cooking, the chicken is brushed with a flavorful sauce that is a little sweet, a little tart, and little spicy all at the same time. The sauce only takes a few minutes to make and really brings the grilled chicken to life (so to speak). I served it with steamed jasmine rice and a boat load of stir-fried veggies.

Thai-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts
-recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

 Test Kitchen Discoveries
We’re always looking for ways to dress up versatile chicken breasts. A fast, flavorful Thai-style sauce pairs well with tender, juicy chicken cooked on the grill.
•Pat the chicken dry with paper towels before cooking. If wet, the chicken will stick to the grill and cook improperly.
•When it comes to fish sauce—a very potent and pungent Asian condiment made of the liquid from salted, fermented fish—color correlates with flavor; the lighter the sauce you buy, the lighter the flavor. Most supermarkets carry the lighter colored (and flavored) brands.
•If you can’t find any fish sauce, 2 minced anchovy fillets combined with 2 tablespoons soy sauce will work just as well.
•For color and bite, we added some fresh cilantro and red pepper flakes to the sauce. Keep in mind that cilantro becomes soapy-tasting if chopped in advance, so we recommend chopping this herb right before adding it to the sauce.
•Boneless chicken breasts can get dry on the grill. For tender, juicy meat, quickly grill the chicken breasts over high heat. Pay close attention to the chicken as it grills, since boneless meat cooks much faster than bone-in chicken.
•Brushing the chicken breasts with some of the sauce as they come off the grill and allowing them to rest allows the flavors to come together before serving.

Serves 4

1/2 cup white vinegar  
1/3 cup sugar  
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes  
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves   
2 tablespoons fish sauce (see note) 
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger  
3 garlic cloves , minced 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil  
 Salt and pepper  

Heat vinegar, sugar, and pepper flakes in small saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in cilantro, fish sauce, ginger, and garlic.

Rub chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over hot fire until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to platter and brush with 1/4 cup sauce. Tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve, passing remaining sauce at table.


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Italian Sausage and Zucchini Pasta

July 28th, 2009 by andrea | No Comments | Filed in Italian, Main Dish, Pasta, Pork, Quick Cooking, Recipes


Whether you’ve got a bumper crop of zucchini or you’re just looking for a quick weeknight meal, here’s a fresh-tasting pasta dish for you to try. It’s nothing fancy but it is easy and tasty. 

I used Foster Farms Turkey Italian Sausage, which has a lot of flavor and less fat than pork sausage. I decided to reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water before I drained the pasta then added it to the skillet when I tossed everything together. This helps keep the pasta moist since there’s no sauce. Next time I’ll reserve more  pasta water (1/2 cup or so). I finished each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Italian Sausage and Zucchini Pasta

Serves 4. 

Sliced zucchini brings a fresh element to Italian sausage pasta. Served with some garlic bread and a glass of wine, it quickly becomes a satisfying meal.

12 ounces fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mild or hot Italian sausages, casings removed and broken into 1/2-in. chunks
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 pound zucchini, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1-in. chunks
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick frying pan, heat oil over high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, cook garlic, onion, and zucchini until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, pepper, and reserved sausage and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Combine sausage mixture with reserved pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with half the Parmesan and serve with remaining cheese on the side.


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Grilled Pastrami, Swiss, and Sweet Onion Marmalade on Rye

July 25th, 2009 by andrea | 3 Comments | Filed in Beef, Recipes, Sandwich


If you’re hankering for a tasty new sandwich then you must try this recipe. Don’t let the sweet onion marmalade scare you away because it’s an easy-to-make, sweet and savory condiment that is really delicious. Also, the marmalade can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use (it keeps for 2 weeks). For best results, rewarm the refrigerated marmalade a bit before making the sandwiches.  

I used black sourdough rye bread from Trader Joe’s as the foundation for the sandwiches. I suggest using a generous amount of the whole-grain mustard to balance out the sweetness of the onion marmalade. I used sliced Swiss cheese instead of grated (although grated will melt faster). Husband gave this recipe two thumbs up. In fact, he inhaled two whole sandwiches in one sitting. I’d say that’s a seal of approval!

Grilled Pastrami, Swiss, and Sweet Onion Marmalade on Rye
-recipe from Sunset Magazine, July 2009

Make the marmalade ahead so you can whip these babies out in just a few minutes. Leftover marmalade is terrific on pork chops and roast beef.

Onion Marmalade
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry but fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel or Grenache

4 slices extra-sour rye or caraway rye bread
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 thin slices pastrami, uncured if available
4 ounces coarsely shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Make marmalade: Melt butter with oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper, stirring well to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and browned, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar and wine. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and onions are soft and sticky, about 10 minutes. Let marmalade cool slightly.

Make sandwiches: Evenly spread one side of each bread slice with 1/2 tbsp. butter. Spread unbuttered side of 2 slices with 1 1/2 tbsp. marmalade each, then top with pastrami and cheese. Spread mustard on unbuttered side of remaining 2 bread slices and place each, buttered side up, on pastrami- and cheese-topped slices.

Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add sandwiches and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes total.

Make ahead: Marmalade keeps up to 2 weeks, covered and chilled.


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Morning Mango Smoothie

July 24th, 2009 by andrea | No Comments | Filed in Beverages, Breakfast, Recipes, Snack

morning-mango-smoothieThis refreshing tropical smoothie has just a hint of lemon flavor and is a perfect summertime snack or quick breakfast. The frozen banana and mango chunks make it thick without watering down the flavor like ice does.

Morning Mango Smoothie
-from the Little Black Book of Smoothies

The perfect breakfast for mango lovers!
Makes 1 smoothie.

1 cup chilled mango juice
3/4 cup low-fat lemon yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup frozen mango chunks

Pour mango juice into blender and add yogurt, banana, and mango. Blend at high speed until smooth.

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