Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

So, I was due to have my baby on March 28th. And guess what? I'm still pregnant! Someone suggested that maybe I have been feeding baby Wendy too well, and I guess that is a possibility - I mean, she'll have to go from eating yummy things like pineapple upside down cupcakes and chocolate to MILK. No fun. I took my maternity leave over a week ago, thinking that I'd be having baby soon. The relaxing has been nice, but there are several days where I've thought "today is going to be the day," and then nothing happens. One friend from work emailed me a recipe for pineapple upside down mini cakes (or cupcakes) and I decided to bake them a few days ago. Distractions, such as baking, have been great! Pineapple is also known to induce labor. Well, it didn't happen...but the cupcakes were REALLY good. Greg, my non-sweets loving husband, ate at least half of them - my parents and I split the rest. Well tonight I'm supposed to go in for my induction (well actually tomorrow, but it's at 12:45 AM tomorrow so basically tonight)! I'm hoping I can still go into labor naturally, so I cooked some "labor inducing" cookies earlier.

Anyways, I loved these cupcakes because they were easy to make and less filling than a big huge piece of cake. I will definitely be making them again. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. of pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple)
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
2/3 cup of light brown sugar, packed
1 can of pineapple rings
Maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a muffin tin.

In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a largish mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed to beat together the eggs, sugar, and pineapple juice. Then add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 - 2 minutes. Set aside.

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Once it is melted, adjust heat to low, add in the brown sugar and stir for about a minute.

Put a spoonful of the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin tin. Put a pineapple ring on top (you might have to cut a piece out of the pineapple ring to make it fit). Then place a maraschino cherry in the middle of the pineapple ring. Top each one with the batter, filling a little over 3/4 full.

Put in the oven and bake for 22 - 25 minutes. You might want to put a baking sheet underneath the muffin tin to prevent anything from spilling into the oven. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then carefully loosen each one with the edge of a knife and then flip onto a baking sheet, reassemble any if necessary, and place on a cooling rack to cool.

Recipe makes about 10 cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from: Big Mama's Home Kitchen 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pasta with Green Veggies and Cheese Sauce

This pasta dish is kind of like a grown-up mac and cheese. The cheese sauce on it reminds me of cheese fondue, which I absolutely love. It is made with white wine, roasted garlic, and sharp cheddar cheese. This recipe was super easy to make and it took less than 50 minutes from start to finish. It is yet another pasta dish that can be filed away under "quick and easy." You can choose what green vegetable you want to add to the pasta. The first time I made it, I used a combination of asparagus and green beans. Then I just used asparagus the second time around. Snap peas would also probably be a good choice! Greg loved this meal and was impressed that I could still cook something tasty in my FORTIETH week of pregnancy. My dad helped himself to three or so servings for lunch the other day. It was definitely a hit. Even though it taste good leftover too, it is best straight from the pot. The cheese sauce gets a little thinned out after being in the fridge and reheated. But the leftovers are still tasty and that's what I'll be eating for dinner tonight. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pasta with Green Veggies and Cheese Sauce 
1 clove of garlic
1 - 2 tsp. of Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 bunch of chopped asparagus or another green vegetable, steamed
16 ounces of dried pasta, such as Farfalle (bowtie) or Penne
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of dry white wine or cooking wine
2 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 3/4 cups of grated sharp white cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Panko bread crumbs (optional)

Roast the garlic first. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the garlic on a baking sheet and drizzle with about a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Place in middle rack of oven and cook for 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven to cool slightly. *I took the shortcut way on roasting garlic. If you want to do it the longer way, check out the roasted garlic recipe here.

While the garlic is roasting, steam your veggies and then set aside.

After your garlic is roasted and veggies are steamed, bring a large pot of water to a boil and sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of salt. Then add in the pasta and cook just 30 seconds past al dente, according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Carefully squeeze the insides of each clove of garlic into a small bowl, making sure to discard of any of the papery bulb. Sprinkle the garlic with some kosher salt, mash it with a fork, and make it into a paste. Set aside.

Put the butter into a very large skillet and melt over medium heat. Once it is melted, add in the garlic paste and cook for one minute. Then add in the flour and stir until the flour is lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Then pour in the white wine and the chicken broth. Stir constantly until the sauce is a little bit thickened, about 3 minutes. Add in the grated cheese and stir until it is completely melted. Turn off the heat. Add in the steamed veggies.

Drain the pasta with a colander. Then add the pasta into the skillet with the cheese sauce and veggies. Toss to coat well and turn the heat back on low and cook for one minute or until warmed through. Serve immediately. Top each serving with some panko bread crumbs and black pepper, if desired.

Makes approximately 6 - 8 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dark Chocolate Lemon Truffles (made with chocolate chips)

Typically I do not make truffles with chocolate chips. I actually do not think I have ever made any truffles with chocolate chips, unless you count the chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, where the filling has mini chocolate chips. Well, I don't have the time to be a chocolate snob anymore (or the money), so I'm glad these turned out so amazingly delicious.  I had been wanting to make these truffles for awhile. I chose to make them last night as a distraction because my due date came and went, but still no baby. Usually I make these lemon truffles with Scharrfen Berger bittersweet chocolate. I thought I had some in my baking cabinet, so when I set out to make them, I realized I actually had an unsweetened chocolate baking bar with 99% chocolate - not ideal for truffles (but it did work well as a topping). I had half a bag of semisweet Ghiradelli chocolate chips in the cabinet, and I thought, hey, I'll give these a try. They worked perfectly! It was so nice to eliminate the step of finely chopping the chocolate for the truffles because I usually use the big baking bars. These truffles have the perfect balance of rich chocolate and zesty lemon. I rolled and coated them this morning and started the day with 18 of them - now there is only 1 left in the fridge (shared between 5 people - I did not eat them ALL)!  I have a feeling I'll be pregnant until mid-April. But I'm on my maternity leave, so I'll just stay home to make and eat truffles all day long. Yum! I hope you love these truffles as much as I do. They are delicious and easy to make. An added bonus of eating a dark chocolate lemon truffle over other treats is that one truffle only has about 55 calories. So if you eat three for breakfast, you still are having an under 200 calorie  breakfast (not that I know anyone who would ever do something like that...)! Enjoy!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Lemon Truffles (made with chocolate chips)

8 Tbsp. of heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 tsp. of lemon zest
5 ounces of Ghiradelli semisweet premium baking chips
2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cocoa powder
1/2 ounce of bittersweet or unsweetened baking chocolate, grated with a box grater (optional)
Cacao nibs (optional)
Extra chocolate chips, for topping

Put the heavy cream and the lemon zest into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Once it simmers, remove from heat and pour in the chocolate chips. Cover the saucepan for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, gently stir the mixture until it is completely smooth. Gently stir in the lemon juice. Cover the saucepan (make sure to wipe the lid of any moisture before covering) and set in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Put the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Lightly dust your hands with the powder. Scoop up some of the mixture and then use your hands to roll into 3/4-inch balls. Dust with more cocoa if desired. Continue until the mixture is gone. Then roll each ball into the grated chocolate, cacao nibs, or a combination of both. You might need to use your fingers to gently press down the grated chocolate/cacao nibs onto the truffles. Top each truffle with a chocolate chip. Put truffles into the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Recipe makes approximately 16 - 20 truffles. About 55 calories per truffle. 

Recipe inspired by various cookbooks in my home and sources on the web. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quick and Easy Meals Roundup

Creamy Lemon and Thyme Pasta is a really quick and easy meal! You can serve it with or without greens - I used kale. 
I have a confession to make. This post is really more for me than it is for you. I know, I'm selfish. I have been feeling more and more tired these days and therefore much less motivated to cook, as I anxiously await the arrival of baby Wendy. She is due to be here by this Friday, but it seems like she is pretty comfortable where she is and she just might be waiting for the warmer weather before she decides to come! As of now, there are no signs of her showing up on Friday, unless you count being extremely huge, tired, and uncomfortable as signs!  I thought that having a compilation of quick and easy meals would help to encourage me to cook because I know that they require little preparation and cook time, and they seem to be healthier than pre-made meals from the grocery store. Pasta meals pretty much dominate the quick and easy meal list - I have definitely been craving carbs all throughout my pregnancy.

If you are super tired these days or you find yourself pressed for time in the evenings, this post is for you, too! Enjoy.

Quick and Easy Meals Roundup 

Eggplant Parmesan (Romano) Burgers
Tortellini Soup with Sun Dried Tomato, Artichokes, and Chickpeas
Creamy Lemon and Thyme Pasta 
Super Easy Pad Thai (no meat)
Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Chicken Sausages and Goat Cheese
Crustless Quiche with Quinoa, Kale and Peppers
Savory Kale and White Bean Soup
Spicy Bean Burritos 
Quinoa, Corn and Black Bean Wraps
White Chicken Chili Soup 
Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage 
Easy Chicken Risotto with Caramelized Onions

So, there you have it. The easiest meal on this list would definitely be the tortellini soup. It seriously takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish. The creamy lemon and thyme pasta only requires one pot, so that's nice for clean up! I hope you find these meals to be as convenient and as delicious as I do.

Just for fun I'd like to share a couple pictures of Wendy's nursery . My parents and husband have been doing major home renovations in the last several months and they are turning out to be amazing. I was pretty scared about a month ago that things would never get finished before Wendy was born. I am super impressed with the way things have turned out and wanted to share!