Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Sausage and Baby Spinach

Okay, so I have been making this recipe forever and I seriously cannot believe that I had not posted it on my blog yet. I made this dish for a neighbor back in July after she had her baby boy and when she asked for the recipe a couple months ago I realized that I didn't have it posted! I meant to post it right away, but I am just getting around to it. Greg and I really love this meal. It is very easy to make and takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. It also makes a ton of leftovers for us which we love. I use chicken sausages, but I'm sure pork sausage would be good in it too. The dressing for the pasta is pretty amazing. You can't really go wrong with olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and pepper! Oh, and to spice it up a little you can add in the crushed red pepper flakes. I had originally added in kale to this recipe, but then decided I like the addition of spinach better. I've also used mustard greens which taste great too, but it is a bit of a stronger flavor. You can make it vegetarian by leaving out the chicken sausages too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Lemon Garlic Pasta with Sausage and Baby Spinach

 4 chicken sausage links, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 pound of penne or farfalle pasta
For the dressing
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
5 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
To mix in
Baby spinach leaves (desired amount - I used about 4- 5 cups & there are 6 cups in an 8 ounce package)

First, cook the chicken sausages according to package directions. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing. Put the pressed garlic into a small bowl and add in the salt. Press the salt into the garlic with a spoon and make sure it is mixed in well. Then add in the lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper and stir well. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain in a colander and then return pasta to the pot that it was cooked in. Pour the dressing over the pasta and mix well. Then add in the baby spinach leaves and stir until they are wilted. Finally, mix in the chicken sausages and serve!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats, Spoon with Me, and originally from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite
Recipe makes approximately 6 - 8 servings.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pumpkin Coffee Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce

Wow, this was an amazing cupcake! I actually had made these cupcakes a couple years ago around the same time of year for my mother's birthday, but I didn't get around to taking a picture. I can't believe it took me another two years to make them again. They are spectacular.

A few months ago I met a new neighbor who has a daughter that is just two weeks younger than Wendy! I felt so happy to know that Wendy had her friend Cayd, who is a few months younger, and Elyse, on the same street as her! I envisioned many play dates in her (and my) future. The other day Wendy had a play date with Elyse while Angela and I made these cupcakes. Although it is a little difficult to cook with babies in our arms, we were able to make these cupcakes without too many disasters. I did have to remind Angela on the recipe the difference between the tablespoon and teaspoon (she is from Italy and cooks in grams) and fortunately we realized when almost a tablespoon of salt went into the flour mixture!

What I love about these pumpkin coffee cupcakes is that they are incredibly moist. I also love the whipped cream topping and caramel sauce. It is a cupcake that you can seriously eat for breakfast (and I did...twice). It reminds a bit of eating gingerbread with whipped cream and lemon sauce. They are pretty easy to make and I know you will enjoy every single bite! I will definitely not be waiting two years or even one year to make these again. Maybe I will make them next week. Or today. Only time will tell....


Recipe for Pumpkin Coffee Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce 

2 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. of instant coffee powder
2 tsp. of baking powder
2 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of salt
1 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon
1/8 tsp. of ground cloves
1/8 tsp. of ground nutmeg
15 ounces of canned pumpkin
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs

For topping
4 ounces coffee (to be brushed on when cupcakes are still warm)
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp. of powdered sugar
*Salted vanilla bean caramel sauce - I halved this recipe and it was plenty. You will need 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 5 ounces of heavy cream, 1/2 vanilla bean, 1/8 tsp. of coarse sea salt, and 1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract (if you also choose to cut the recipe in half)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the flour, instant coffee powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into a medium bowl and then sift to mix. Put the pumpkin, oil, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium speed to beat. Then add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition to incorporate. Put the hand mixer on low speed and add in half of the flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated and then add in the rest of the flour mixture and beat again until just incorporated.

Line a cupcake pan or muffin pan with paper cupcake liners. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop the batter into the liners and fill about 3/4 full. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Then transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on top of a paper towel or a pan (to avoid getting coffee all over your countertops). Generously brush the tops of each cupcake with the coffee. Brush one coat of coffee on each cupcake, then brush each one again. Add another coat if desired. Make sure to do this while the cupcakes are still warm! Then allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the caramel sauce.

Before making the topping, place a metal bowl and a beater in the freezer for a few minutes. Then make the whipped cream topping. Pour the heavy whipping cream into the cold metal bowl and use an electric hand mixer fitted with the cold beater to beat the cream. First beat the cream on medium low speed and then gradually increase to high speed. When soft peaks begin to appear, blend in the powdered sugar. Then whip until stiff peaks form in the cream mixture and make sure not to over beat it. Use a spoon or spatula to top each cupcake with the whipped cream topping. If you are fancy, you can use a pastry bag with a decorating tip to frost (but I'm not that fancy). Then drizzle with the caramel sauce.

If you aren't serving right away, drizzle caramel sauce on right before serving. These cupcakes are best eaten within a couple days of making them. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

*Comment on the caramel sauce: Be patient. When I was making it, the mixture turned rock-like and I didn't think it would work. As you continue to stir it will liquefy and turn into caramel! It does take a long time for the sugar to caramelize. And, it's okay if the caramel sauce is thin (like mine was). It is still absolutely divine.

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats, cake recipe originally from Williams Sonoma

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dark Chocolate Ginger Truffles

I am back to truffle making after quite a long break! I am excited to try so many truffle recipes and I just need to fit in the time to try them all. I made these dark chocolate ginger truffles about a month ago and I was quite happy with they way they turned out. I am a lover of ginger. I think that ginger is one of those things that people either love or hate. So, if you're not a ginger lover than perhaps this truffle is not for you. But, if you enjoy its warm and subtly spicy flavor then I do believe you will absolutely love this truffle. I was first introduced to the combination of ginger and chocolate at a chocolate shop in San Francisco several years back. My husband and I visited my sister in Noe Valley and we  happened to walk into the store. It was the first time that I realized that chocolate could be combined with spices and it opened up a whole new world for me. I ordered a bunch of the chocolate and then later chocolate by Vosges started popping up and I was able to  buy exotic chocolates at the grocery stores! And, I have tried the bacon and chocolate bar and I've got to be honest, I'm not a fan. There are many members of my family who do like it, though!

The filling of this dark chocolate ginger truffle is made of a dark chocolate ganache with freshly grated ginger and then it is coated with an even darker chocolate and topped with a piece of crystallized (candied) ginger. The ginger truffle is perfect for this time of year since ginger is usually associated with "fall spices." Another fun fall truffle that I tried out has a chocolate ganache filling with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and cloves. It is then coated in a mixture of milk and semisweet chocolate and topped with pecans, chunky sugar, and cinnamon. I hope to post those soon!

Back to the ginger truffles. They are so good that someone who sampled them came to me weeks later and asked me to make them for her so she could give them to someone as a gift. That is the thing with truffles. They are very special and if you take the time to make them, they make perfect gifts during the holiday season. Once you learn how to make them, they are really easy to do and even though they take time because of the steps, each step can be done in 15 minutes or less. I'm happy I learned to make truffles a few years ago and it is definitely a bit of an obsession. Enough rambling for now. Here is the recipe for the dark chocolate ginger truffles. Enjoy!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Ginger Truffles

For the ganache filling
4 1/2 ounces of heavy whipping cream
3/4 - 1 tsp. of grated fresh ginger (use a microplane to grate)
5 1/2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
For rolling, dipping and topping
Dutch-processed cocoa powder (for rolling)
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (for coating)
Several pieces of crystallized ginger, cut into thin and small pieces (for topping)
decorative sugar, if desired (for topping)

Heat the cream and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer, immediately pour the very finely chopped semisweet chocolate it and remove from heat. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to sit for five minutes. After five minutes, use a spoon to stir gently until the mixture is smooth and all the cream is mixed in to the chocolate. Pour the chocolate into a shallow container, cover tightly, and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Take the mixture out of the fridge and open container. Dust hands with cocoa powder and have a bowl of cocoa powder and paper towels very close by. You may want to roll up your sleeves, too! Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop some of the mixture and gently shape into a ball. Drop onto a foil lined container. Continue to scoop and shape and drop until the mixture is gone. Then cover the container tightly and put in the freezer for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Prepare a double boiler with about one inch of water. Once the water begins to steam, put the pan with the bittersweet chocolate on top and stir until it is thin and smooth. Take the ganache filling balls out of the freezer. Line a baking tray with foil. Drop a ball into the chocolate, use a spoon to coat, and then drop on the foil lined tray. Top with a piece of crystallized ginger and sprinkle on some decorative sugar, if desired. Put the tray in the fridge until they harden, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Store in the fridge but when they are served, serve at room temperature.

Recipe makes approximately 2 dozen truffles.

Recipe Adapted from: Truffles, by Dede Wilson

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Best Cream of Crab Soup

I have been wanting to make cream of crab soup for a couple years now, and I finally did it on Saturday. It was possibly the best cream of crab soup I have ever had, and I have had a lot of cream of crab soup in my day, because I live in Maryland! I found the recipe in a cookbook called "The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook," and it was one of 22 crab soup recipes. I thought the cookbook was the right place to look for my cream of crab soup recipe, especially since I loved the crab cake recipe I used from the book. The soup was easy to make and it tasted amazing. Greg exclaimed how much he liked it, and then after eating it for awhile, he turns to me and says "um, so how unhealthy is this soup, because it seems really rich." And I was like, "um, well it is CREAM of crab soup, and why do you have to take the fun out of everything?" I then explained to him that although it did have heavy cream, that is was thickened because a flour roux was added to the soup. It is the roux that makes this soup so nice and thick (but of course it's the cream that makes it so deliciously, um, creamy).  I ended up using crab claw meat for the soup and it worked out well. You can choose to add the sherry, but I don't think it is necessary. I do recommend sprinkling it with some extra black pepper and Old Bay Seasoning before serving. Oh, and make sure you have some toasty bread or crackers for dipping. Enjoy.

Recipe for The Best Cream of Crab Soup 
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 small to medium yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. of ground yellow mustard
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
16 ounces of heavy cream
16 ounces of half and half
1 pound of crabmeat (I used crab claw meat)
3 Tbsp. of sherry, optional
Parsley leaves for garnish, optional

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large stockpot. Add in the diced onions and pressed garlic and stir. Stir frequently and cook until the onions come to a light golden color.
While the onions are cooking, put the flour, Old Bay Seasoning, black pepper, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper and salt into a smallish bowl and mix.
Once onions are light golden in color, adjust the heat to medium and then make a roux. Add the flour mixture in, and stir continuously to make a blond roux (until the mixture is light golden in color), about 3 - 4 minutes.  After the roux is made, pour in the cream and half and half. Bring it to a boil, and then stir in the crabmeat. Bring the soup back to a boil, and then immediately stir in the sherry, if using.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each with some extra black pepper and Old Bay Seasoning, and garnish with some parsley leaves, if desired.

Recipe makes approximately 6 servings. 

Recipe Adapted from: The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook, by Whitey Schmidt