Translate

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Best Coconut Macaroons EVER - No Egg Involved!




A few of my friends have been asking me to post the recipe for coconut macaroons. I often make macaroons because they are easy to make and because Greg likes them so much. Since Greg and I cannot eat all of the macaroons on our own, I usually give the extra ones to my coworkers or friends.

I can remember eating my mother's macaroons as a child. When I got married I asked her about the recipe, and she told me  to search the web for recipes that use condensed milk rather than egg whites. And so the searching and baking began...

It took me quite a while to perfect the macaroon recipe. Although the macaroons have always tasted delicious, they would spread way too much and get really gooey.  To prevent the spreading, I learned to add flour to the batter. It is also an absolute MUST to bake the macaroons on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, otherwise they will stick to the pan and be destroyed - and that would be very sad.

The other day I was craving coconut, so I made some macaroons after making the mango lassi with coconut. Greg and I enjoyed them, but I also shared them with a few of my friends. Last night I brought Greg 3 macaroons and a glass of milk while we were watching a movie, and I asked him to describe the macaroons for me. All he could come up with was: "they are good and coconutty." No wonder he has never written me any love poems...

I asked a friend for a better description, and she described the macaroons like this: "It is funny because I am not sure I have ever considered myself a coconut lover but the macaroons are so amazingly good and addicting - I can never have one or even two for that matter. They are sweet, but they also have a toasted nutty flavor that is irresistible. They are chewy but they melt in your mouth at the same time. Ohhh, so yummy!" Sarah is obviously much more poetic than my husband!

These macaroons really are pretty incredible. Even if you're not a coconut lover, you will fall in love with them - I promise!

Recipe for Coconut Macaroons

INGREDIENTS:
1 14-oz bag of sweetened shredded flaked coconut
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 - 3 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
BAKER'S Dipping Chocolate discs in milk chocolate (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the coconut, condensed milk, flour, almond extract, and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Cover and put bowl in the fridge for several hours; overnight if needed.

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop batter and then roll with your hands to form 1 1/2-inch balls. Place each ball on baking pans lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, leaving about 1-inch of space in between each. If desired, add the chocolate baking discs by placing one disc flat side down on top of each coconut ball (they may flatten, but that is ok).
Preheat oven to 330 degrees. Bake for 20 - 23 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
Immediately transfer macaroons to a plate. Enjoy!

*Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

-Recipe adapted from various sources & then adjusted to my preference-

Double Tomato & Cheesy Pasta Salad


Are you looking for something to take to a picnic this summer? Pasta salads are usually a staple at backyard bashes, but sometimes it seems as if all of the pasta salads taste the same. Not this pasta salad! It really stands out because of the flavors of the basil, capers, and sun dried tomatoes. It is also loaded with CHEESE, which to me always makes a meal extra delicious. Is that a bad sign?
I tested this recipe out about a month ago. My friend and I thought it would be fun to get together for dinner to celebrate our husbands' birthdays, and this is the meal that we decided upon making. She bought some ingredients, I bought some ingredients, and we put them altogether to make the salad. It was a hit. The recipe made enough for the four of us to have large servings (and I think the boys might have gone back for seconds), and all of us were able to eat leftovers for lunch the next day. 
Today another friend and I are going to make the pasta salad for lunch. I can't wait to eat it again. Yummy! 

Recipe for Double Tomato & Cheesy Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS:
Salad:
1 box of Rotini pasta noodles
1 pound of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound of mozzarella cheese, cubed
8 sun dried tomatoes, chopped up small
1 shallot, diced
Dressing: 
6 sun dried tomoatoes
2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. of Extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
1 tsp. of capers, drained of juices
1 tsp. of kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
Topping:
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped basil leaves

DIRECTIONS:
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add in some salt, and then cook pasta noodles to al dente according to package directions. Drain in a colander and then set aside to cool. 
To make the dressing, combine the sun dried tomatoes, vinegar, oil, garlic, capers, salt, pepper, and basil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. 
Put the cooled pasta in a large bowl and add in the cherry/grape tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and shallots. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss well. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and chopped basil leaves. Enjoy! 



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies

There aren't many women I know who do not love chocolate. In the offices I work in, chocolate is usually an easy fix to any problem. During my workday, I often hear things such as "I really need chocolate, who has chocolate?" The good news is that I usually do have chocolate!
I am off for summer break right now, but during the school year I am involved in weekly meetings. One week we had a particularly stressful and busy meeting day, so I decided to whip up some chocolate cookies for my coworkers and myself to alleviate some of the stress. I chose to make these perfectly chewy cookies which are loaded with chocolate and guaranteed to satisfy all of your chocolate cravings.
This recipe comes from Baking Illustrated, and it is shared on many food blogs. The recipe calls for melting the baking chocolate, but I was stressed when I was making them and I accidentally forgot that step and added in a new one. It is ok though, because they still turned out great! I also did not have any semisweet baking chocolate on hand, so I substituted with a high quality bittersweet chocolate. The cookies were pretty much devoured at the office.
I haven't made these cookies in a while, and I am craving chocolate. I also just bought a bar of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Who wants me to bring them some triple chocolate cookies? I just need a small excuse to whip up a batch of them right now...

Recipe for Triple Chocolate Cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
8.5 ounces of SCHARFFEN BERGER 70% cacao bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped very finely using a food processor
1 tsp. of instant coffee powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
5 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened but still cool
3/4 cup of light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Sift, then set bowl aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the eggs and vanilla with a fork. Add in the coffee powder. Stir, and let the coffee powder dissolve in to the egg mixture.
Put the butter in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy. Add in the brown sugar and white sugar, and beat until the sugars are well combined. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually beat in the egg mixture in to the sugar mixture until it is well incorporated. Then add in the finely chopped chocolate until it is combined in to the mixture. With the mixer still on low speed, add in the dry ingredients. Beat until just combined, making sure not to over beat. Use a spoon or spatula to fold in the chocolate chips in to the batter. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1 3/4-inch cookie dough scoop, scoop the dough in to mounds and place on baking sheet. Make sure to leave 1 1/2-inches of space between the mounds of dough.
Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Halfway between baking, rotate the pan 180 degrees in the oven. After cooking is complete, take cookies out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 20 delicious cookies.

NOTE:
When I first started baking, I did not understand why some recipes called for regular cocoa powder and others called for Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Author and popular food blogger, David Lebowitz, shares great information on his blog about cocoa powder. If you're new to baking, I suggest you check it out!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mango Lassi with Coconut



Do you know what a mango lassi is? I might have never known what it was, if I had not been introduced to Indian food. Some close friends and I used to get together at Akbar, a great Indian restaurant in Columbia, MD. Whenever I visit the restaurant, I order a mango lassi with my meal. They are so good!
Traditionally, a lassi beverage is yogurt-based and mixed in with water and spices. A mango lassi is a yogurt-based drink with mango (of course). I have tried a couple times to recreate the mango lassi in my kitchen with not so great results. Not until today that is....
Greg has been out working on our deck since morning, and hopefully he has accomplished something. My point is, he has been outside and I have been in the kitchen, so I have had the chance to make a lot of different recipes. Today I made the batter for coconut macaroons, some tomatillo salsa, some cilantro-peanut sauce, AND a mango-coconut lassi. The lassi was amazing. I added a tablespoon of condensed milk and a tablespoon of coconut to it, and it made the flavor extra tasty (I was making the lassi simultaneously with the coconut macaroon batter). 
I love the thickness and sweetness of the lassi. I almost feel like I'm in a tropical paradise while sipping on it. Almost...
I hope you will also fall in love with the lassi. Enjoy! 

Recipe for Mango Lassi with Coconut 

INGREDIENTS:
3 ripe mangos, chopped
1 1/4 cups of milk
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. of condensed milk (if you don't have this on hand, add an extra Tbsp. of sugar)
1 Tbsp. of sweetened shredded flaked coconut
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
Crushed or Cubed Ice




DIRECTIONS:
Put all ingredients EXCEPT for the ice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Place the blender in the fridge for 30 minutes. If desired, pour over ice when ready to sip.
***Original Recipe***
NOTE: When you are ready to drink the mango lassi, you might want to put it back on the blender and mix for a few seconds. This drink is best when it is sipped with a straw - even better when sipped with a bright and colorful straw.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Congrats to the Contest Winner & A Tribute to Coconut



Thank you to everyone who participated in this week's contest. The lucky winner is Dustin, who posted about the coconut truffles. Dustin wrote: "The Coconut Truffle is AMAZING! It's a lot like a Mounds bar. Try it! You will not be disappointed."
Congratulations, Dustin! I hope you use the Amazon gift card to buy yourself something nice, or maybe you can use it to buy something nice for your wife.
So in case it hasn't been made completely obvious yet, I love coconut. I have posted recipes for the coconut truffles and coconut cupcakes, but I am still craving more coconut. During the past couple days I have seen some great coconut recipes on different cooking blogs. Today I came across this recipe for coconut white chocolate chunk cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod, which sound incredible. And, on Our Best Bites, I found this recipe for coconut-lime cupcakes. YUM. I would totally love to try both of those recipes soon.
I am thinking I need to whip up some coconut macaroons this week. They are easy to make & incredibly delicious. Stay tuned for the recipe!

*Do you love coconut? What is your favorite coconut treat to make?*

Mango & Avocado Salad




Recently I posted a recipe for sweet potato tacos, courtesy of Paladar Restaurant. If you haven't had a chance to look at the recipe yet, I suggest you do! A really nice addition to the sweet potato tacos is this mango and avocado salad. This salad actually is a great side for many meals.
I love it because it is simple to make and super healthy. The most difficult part about making the salad is cutting up the mangos! I have had several close calls while chopping them; so take the extra time and learn how to cut them properly ahead of time.
I also love this salad because it is so bright and colorful. It makes me happy to just look at it, but of course it makes me happier while I'm eating it up! I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do.

Mango & Avocado Salad Recipe
INGREDIENTS:
2 - 3 ripe mangos, cut in to 1-inch chunks
1 - 2 ripe avocados, cut in to 1-inch chunks (to be cut and added right before serving)
2 limes, juiced
2 tsp. of canola oil
1 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (leave this out if you don't like spicy)
Sprinkling of Kosher salt
Sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Make the lime dressing. In a medium container, add the lime juice, canola oil, sugar, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir together well. Add in the mango slices, sprinkle the mango chunks with a little bit of salt, and then coat with the dressing. Cover the container and put in fridge for about an hour. Right before serving the salad, add in the avocado pieces and mix together. Enjoy!

***Original Recipe***

NOTE: Have leftover mango & avocado salad? Add in some canned black beans, and then use it as a filling in a tortilla. Makes a nice lunch!



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paladar's Sweet Potato Tacos



I  am very, very excited to share this recipe for sweet potato tacos with you today. First, let me tell you a  little bit about how I even came to realize that sweet potato makes a great filling for tacos.
In Fall 2010, Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar opened its doors in Annapolis, Md. I was counting the days down before they opened. I checked their menu and got pumped up about items such as  tropical hearts of palm salad, crispy yucca fries, ceviche, guacamole, slow roasted chicken empanadas, and many other fun Latin-inspired dishes and sides that are unique to other restaurants.

I went to the restaurant when they first opened, and I continued to go back for more. Their food and customer service is always spectacular. I also hear they have some amazing rum drinks on the menu.
This past winter, I received information in the mail from Paladar about a photo contest they were running.  The prize for the contest was a very generous gift card to the restaurant. A couple days before the entries were due, I asked my coworkers if they would be interested in entering the contest. I work in a middle school special education office with several other women, and many of us were stressed out at the time (and to top it off, no snow this year so no  extra days off), so I thought it would be fun to enter the contest with my team. We entered the contest and with the help from our friends and some social media gurus, we WON the contest! It really lifted our spirits to win , and we all really enjoyed our outing to Paladar together.

The winning Carnaval mask photo!
The last time I went to Paladar, my husband and I took out  our friend and Twitter personality, Kevin Eder, and his fun wife, Molly. That is when I saw the sweet potato tacos on the menu. I ordered them & I fell in love. When I got home, I searched for sweet potato taco recipes on the Internet, but nothing seemed to compare. I contacted Paladar to see if they would be willing to share the recipe with me. Annapolis executive chef, Joe Tis, was kind enough to send me a version of the recipe, and Paladar's team also okayed me to share the recipe with you - how nice! Thank you, Scott, Joe, & Paladar. You guys are great!
I think you will love the recipe. The tomatillo salsa is amazing. I served the tacos last weekend not once, not twice, but THREE times. I could eat them every night for dinner if I had to.
Well, let's get to the recipe already. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Tacos Recipe

For the filling:
1 1/2 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, divided
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and then diced in 1/4-inch cubes
4  hearts of palm stalks from a can, cut lengthwise and then sliced in to desired size 
1 can of pinto beans or great white northern beans, drained well
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. of cinnamon

For the tomatillo salsa:
6 fresh tomatillos, husked
1/4 of one bunch of fresh cilantro
1/2 red onion OR 1 - 2 thin slices of a jalapeno pepper
1 lime, juiced

For the toppings:
Red cabbage
Chopped Chives
8 - 10 soft tortillas (6-inch/taco size)

DIRECTIONS:
Make tomatillo salsa first. Place tomatillos, cilantro, and onion in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it is to salsa consistency. Pour in to a bowl, squeeze in the lime juice, cover and put in fridge for an hour.
In a bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, hearts of palm, 2 1/2 tsp. olive oil, and salt and pepper. Place the potato mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes (until potatoes are done). Put the rest of the olive oil in to a large skillet. Heat oil, then add potato mixture and pinto beans to the skillet. Add in some salt, pepper, and the 2 tsp. of cinnamon. Saute until the beans and potatoes are warmed through, then remove pan from heat.
Heat tortillas in a microwave for 20 - 25 seconds. Build your own tacos. Put sweet potato mixture down the middle of the tortilla, then top with cabbage, chives, and tomatillo salsa.
Serve with mango and avocado salad (recipe to be posted soon). Enjoy!
*Children seem to really love these tacos - I think it's the consistency of the sweet potato & the flavor of the cinnamon.

PALADAR LATIN KITCHEN & RUM BAR, ANNAPOLIS
Other locations: Cleveland, OH

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Soba Noodle Salad



The other night I got excited about making a recipe for a sweet and spicy chicken with a soba noodle salad, but unfortunately only the soba noodle recipe was successful. The chicken was a bit of a disaster (I'm going to blame Greg & the 2 other men in our kitchen discussing AC quotes, standing almost right next to me as I'm trying to broil chicken breasts)! Ok, maybe the sauce didn't taste so great either...
Luckily the soba noodle salad turned out really well, since that was the only thing we ate for dinner that night. Soba noodles can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. They are made of buckwheat flour and they have a nice consistency. This soba noodle salad has a little bit of heat and the crunchiness of the veggies compliment the texture of the noodles nicely. I would definitely make this recipe again! Now I just need to find a better sweet and spicy chicken recipe...anyone willing to share one with me?

Soba Noodle Salad Recipe

INGREDIENTS:
1 13.5-oz package of soba noodles
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 head of baby bok choy, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp. of canola oil
2 1/2 Tbsp. of rice vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. of Sriracha sauce
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:
Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook soba noodles according to package directions (they cook quickly - 4 minutes or less). Meanwhile, chop up the peppers and baby bok choy.
When noodles are done cooking, drain them in a colander and then rinse cold water over them until they are cool. Drain again. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl.
Add in the red pepper, baby bok choy, canola oil, rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce, and the kosher salt. Toss to combine. Can be eaten immediately, or it can be set in the fridge for 20 - 30 minutes first to allow the flavors to meld together. Enjoy!
Recipe Adapted from Real Simple Magazine, Spring/Summer 2012 

NOTE:
Soba noodles contain many health benefits. They provide us with essential amino acids, essential nutrients, and antioxidants. Soba noodles are naturally gluten-free, but sometimes wheat flour is added to them - make sure to check the ingredients if you are on a gluten-free diet. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberries Tossed in Vanilla Sugar




Since peak strawberry season ends next month, I thought I would post another tasty strawberry recipe. This recipe is very simple to make, but it can be impressive - especially if you top it with the fresh whipped cream. The berries sit in the vanilla sugar mixture first for about a half hour, and the result is a very flavorful berry in an amazingly sweet juice. The vanilla just adds something so special to the strawberries. It's a little addictive, but that's ok - strawberries are good for you! I hope you love this recipe as much as I do. Enjoy!

Strawberries Tossed in Vanilla Sugar
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of strawberries, stemmed, sliced thinly & then cut in half
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Freshly whipped cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Place sugar in a medium bowl. Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean with the back of a small spoon to get out the beans, and then add them to the bowl and incorporate in to the sugar. Discard the vanilla bean. Add the sliced strawberries to the sugar and vanilla and coat them well. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Top with freshly whipped cream, if desired. Yum!
This also can be made ahead and put in to the fridge for up to 24 hours before serving.

NOTE: 
Vanilla beans can be very pricey at the grocery store, sometimes running as high as $8 - $10 per bean. Save money by buying in bulk. I was able to find 8 vanilla beans for $12 at Costco - what a deal! Make sure to call your local Costco store ahead of time to see if they carry the product, sometimes they are only sold during the holiday months.

*Looking for more strawberry recipes? Check out the chilled strawberry soup or the strawberry-balsamic sauce.

Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce



There are things in life that we all know go well together. Peanut butter and jelly, milk with cookies, salt and vinegar - you get the point. There are other things in life that are kind of surprising when they go well together, such as strawberries and balsamic vinegar. I never would have thought it up myself, but luckily there are geniuses out there who can think of those tasty combos and then share them with people like me! They really do go very well with each other.
I first sampled strawberries and balsamic together in a strawberry caprese salad from Pink Parsley. That lead me to want to search for more strawberry and balsamic combinations, and I stumbled across this recipe for strawberry-balsamic sauce. It is a super tasty sauce and it goes well on vanilla ice cream, Greek yogurt, spinach salads, pancakes, or anything else you can dream of. Greg and I loved the sauce on vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce Recipe

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of thinly sliced strawberries, stems removed
2 Tbsp. of Balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 small fresh basil leaves, torn in to small pieces

DIRECTIONS:
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and set the pan over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring almost constantly until the mixture reaches the consistency of s a syrup. Remove from heat. Serve warm or cool over pancakes, toast, yogurt, ice cream, or other favorites. Store in airtight container in the fridge.

Recipe Adapted from: Savory Sweet Life

NOTE:
Strawberries are the best when they are in their peak season, which is between April and July. To get the best bang for your buck, purchase strawberries from your local growers. Purchasing from local growers will ensure that the berries will be very flavorful and fresh. Look for berries that are red in color and very shiny. Remember that smaller berries usually carry the most sweetness. If you would like to find farmers markets near you, check out the USDA farmers market search


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cilantro-Peanut Pasta Salad & A Contest/Giveaway

Please read on for contest details!

A good friend of mine recently bought the cookbook Our Best Bites, written by the authors of one of my favorite cooking blogs. She was very excited about the cookbook and she called me up to tell me about all the yummy recipes she had found and tried. My friend invited me over to go through the cookbook with her and to chat. As I was sitting on the couch flipping through the book, she brought over a beautiful-looking pasta salad. She asked if I'd like to try some, but since I had just eaten dinner, I turned it down. She told me that the pasta was tossed in a cilantro-peanut sauce, and then she brought over a bowl of the sauce. I dipped my finger in it - I ate some - and I loved it. The very next day I made the sauce and the pasta salad, and I think I've made it at least 5 times since then. It is so delicious.
Feel free to use your choice of vegetables in the salad. I like using cucumbers, carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, and a little bit of kale. Don't forget to add the honey roasted peanuts on top - their sweetness and crunchiness really adds a nice touch. Enjoy!

Cilantro-Peanut Pasta Salad Recipe

INGREDIENTS:
For the pasta salad:
1 pound of spaghetti noodles or linguine noodles
1 Tbsp. of kosher salt
Your choice of chopped vegetables (I like using cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, a little bit of kale, and carrots - crunchy veggies probably will work best)
Honey roasted peanuts
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
For the cilantro peanut sauce -
1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 tsp. of sesame oil
1 Tbsp. of rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. of soy sauce
4 Tbsp. of honey
2 cloves of garlic, chopped in half
1 Tbsp. of minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup of cilantro
1/3 cup of canola oil or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
3 tsp. of sriracha chili sauce or other Thai chili sauce
2 Tbsp. of water (use less or more to get your desired consistency)
DIRECTIONS:
Place all of the ingredients for the peanut sauce in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it is smooth. Place in a bowl, cover, and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
Boil a pot of water. Add the salt and pasta noodles to the pot and follow box directions to cook pasta to al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it with cold water until the noodles are cooled. Drain again and then put pasta in a large bowl.
Mix in peanut sauce in to the pasta (sometimes I use all of it, sometimes I use half of it - it really depends on how much you want). Dish up the pasta on plates and top each plate with veggies, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
This pasta salad makes a lot of servings, and it saves well for leftovers.

Recipe Adapted from: Our Best Bites

CONTEST DETAILS
I want to thank my readers and friends for checking out the blog. I always get really excited about contests on the web, and I thought it would be fun to run a blog contest to show my appreciation.
Official Rules:
The contest will start at 04:00 PM EST on Saturday, June 16th and it will end at 11:59 PM EST on Saturday, June 23rd. Contest participants must first like Bake It & Make It with Beth on FACEBOOK. To enter the contest, you can either share any of the blog's recipes to your FACEBOOK page with a short description (make sure to tag Bake It & Make It with Beth in your posting, so I know that you shared) OR you can enter by leaving a comment (nice comments only) on any of the blog postings. A winner will be selected by random and they will be notified via Facebook message or email during the week of June 25th.
PRIZES: One grand prize will be awarded to one winner. The grand prize is a $25 Amazon.com E-gift card, which will be delivered to the winner's email inbox (to be spent in any way, although I hope the winner would use it for kitchen-related items)!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE & thank you for participating!
 If you have any questions about the contest, please comment on this post. 
Contest sponsored by Bake It and Make It with Beth & 
is not affiliated in any way with Amazon.com


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Homemade Hummus Dip for a Sailing Trip


Mmm, hummus! I love hummus because it taste good AND it is healthy, which is a total bonus in my book. I had never attempted to make homemade hummus before, but with the help of Pinterest, I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad that I did! Hummus can be pretty pricey at the grocery store and the small containers often get eaten quickly, so making it at home will save you some money. It is also simple to make- much simpler than I thought it would be.
Some of you may know that my husband, Greg, would rather be sailing than doing anything else in the world. Although this sometimes bothers me, at the same time it is pretty cool to have a husband that knows so much about the wind, waves, and open sea. Recently we went on a sailing cruise to the quaint Eastern Shore town of Saint Michaels, Maryland.  It takes a good 5 hours to get out there by sailboat because it is 20 miles across the Chesapeake Bay, and we wanted to have lots of food for the trip. Hummus dip was something that I thought would be great during the sail, so I whipped some up before we left and it was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us.
We had a great time in Saint Michaels. We went on walks, ate some amazing sushi, stopped by an ice cream shop, and fell asleep to the waves and wind rocking our sailboat, Liahona.
And, we ate hummus - what a perfect weekend!

Homemade Hummus Dip Recipe

INGREDIENTS:
2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided (about 2 - 3 lemons)
1/3 cup of tahini paste (can usually be found in the ethnic aisles of grocery stores)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. of cumin powder
1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. of kosher salt
1/3 cup of water

DIRECTIONS:
Put 1 1/2 ounces of the lemon juice and all of the other ingredients EXCEPT for the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for 5 seconds. Add in the chickpeas to the mixture and pulse for about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add in the remaining lemon juice to the mixture and pulse for a few more seconds.
Transfer hummus in to a bowl and cover. Put in fridge for at least 2 hours (to allow the flavors to meld together).
If desired, drizzle hummus with a little olive oil before serving. Eat with your favorite veggies, crackers,  breads, or anything else you can think of. Enjoy!

*Recipe adapted from various sources.


Attempting to sail the boat. It was rather windy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage


A few months back I was flipping through a magazine, trying to keep up with the latest fashion/beauty/health trends, when I came across some good-looking pasta recipes. I usually steer clear of recipes found in trend magazines, but a couple of them looked interesting enough to try out. As you might have guessed, one of the recipes I found was for the Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage, or as Greg likes to call it, “Grapeful Pasta.” I had never had pasta that used grapes in the sauce, and it is incredible how flavorful the grapes make the dish. They burst and explode. and then the pasta is coated in their juices. The red grapes make a savory sweet sauce that pairs well with all of the other ingredients – a yummy combination of sweet, spicy, and salty.
Not only does this meal taste good, it also provides some nice health benefits. Red grapes are high in antioxidants that fight inflammation – nobody likes inflammation. I have made this dish many times, and I never get sick of eating it for dinner. This meal also saves really well for leftovers. I’m “grapeful” that I found this recipe while going through that magazine!

Pasta with Red Grapes & Sausage Recipe


INGREDIENTS:
 3 Aidells Chicken Sausage Links, cut in to 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 small red onion, cut in to very thin and small slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt, divided
2 cups of seedless red grapes
1 cup of chicken broth
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (totally based upon your heat-threshold preferences)
12-ounces of whole grain penne pasta
3 Tbsp. of grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp. of dried parsley flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Put 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a very large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until sausage is browned (about 10 minutes). Once sausage is done cooking, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and put it on to a plate. Set aside. Add another 1 tbsp. of oil to the saucepan and return the heat to medium. Add the onions and the garlic to the pan with 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt and stir until the onions are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the red grapes, broth, and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the mixture and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the grapes burst and the sauce thickens. While the grapes are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once grapes have burst and have cooked for at least 10 minutes, return the sausage to the saucepan with the grapes and stir. Turn off the stovetop.
When the water boils, add the 1 tbsp. of kosher salt to the pot. Add in the pasta and cook as directed on pasta package. When pasta is done, drain the pasta well and then add it to the saucepan. Turn the heat to high. Cook until the sausage is hot and the pasta is coated with the sauce, about one minute. Remove from heat and divide amongst serving dishes. Top each serving with parsley, Parmesan, and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!
Adapted from: Self Magazine


NOTE:
When I first started to cook I would follow recipes and sometimes come across terms that I was not familiar with. One of the terms that stumped me a bit was the word “divided” when seen on an ingredients list. When you see the word “divided,” it simply means that the recipe will use the ingredient in more than just one step. In the pasta recipe, the word “divided” is used with the olive oil and kosher salt. Example: “1 Tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt, divided” 1 Tbsp. of the kosher salt is used in the pot of boiling water, and the other 1/4 tsp. is used in the saucepan with the onion and garlic. Example: “2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided” 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil is used in the saucepan to cook the sausage, and the other 1 Tbsp. is used to cook the garlic and onion.
Don’t fret when you see the word “divided” in a recipe, it doesn’t mean that you will have to solve any math problems! Just remember not to use the divided ingredient all at once – it’s simple division.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grilled Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Skewers



Grilling season is in full swing, and that means it is time to light up the grill and make some delicious meaty meals! I am a bit weary of grills, so I prepare the meat and Greg does the grilling. I love teamwork!
I originally found these chicken skewers on Annie's Eats, and since they looked good, I pinned them on to my Pinterest page. A friend of mine commented that she had made the recipe last summer and that they turned out really well, so I knew that I had to make them. The recipe that I found actually calls for fresh parsley in the marinade, but since I did not have any fresh parsley on hand, I substituted with fresh rosemary. All of the other ingredients in the recipe are ones that I usually have in stock in my kitchen, which is nice. I think the combination of lemon, garlic, and rosemary make an amazing marinade. I will definitely be making these chicken skewers again soon, and I hope you will be making them too! Enjoy.

Grilled Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Skewers Recipe


INGREDIENTS:
4 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon (made easy by microplane)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. of fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp. of dried parsley flakes
3/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. of boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut in to 1-inch pieces

DIRECTIONS:
In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary,  parsley flakes, salt, and black pepper. Add in the 1-inch chicken pieces to the bowl and stir until the chicken pieces are well covered in the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but no longer than 8 hours (marinating for a longer time will allow the flavor to soak in to the chicken, but after a certain point it is not safe for the chicken to continue sitting in the fridge).
Prepare the grill. Thread marinated chicken pieces on to metal skewers, dividing the pieces evenly between the skewers. If grilling directly on the grill, very lightly oil the grill grates so the chicken will not stick to the grill. If using a kabob rack, you do not need to oil the rack.
Place chicken skewers on the grill or kabob rack, cover the grill, and cook until the chicken is fully cooked (about 8 - 12 minutes). Flip the chicken skewers over once halfway during the grilling process. When chicken is done, transfer to serving plates and eat immediately. Serve with your favorite sides.

Adapted from: Annie's Eats

NOTE:
Working with raw chicken breasts (and raw meat in general) can be a little bit overwhelming. It took me a very long time to come to terms with working with raw chicken in my kitchen. I am still extra cautious and maybe even a bit OCD when it comes to preparing chicken, and I'm always looking for good tips on handling chicken. I came across this post on Our Best Bites which has great information on handling, preparing, and cooking raw chicken. If you get a chance, I suggest you check it out!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting




I am crazy for coconut, and I am also super crazy about these coconut cupcakes. They are by far the best cupcakes I have ever had, and if you love coconut, they will probably be the best you have ever had too. Usually I am a frosting-type of person when it comes to cupcakes, but I even love the cake on these cupcakes. The coconut in the cake makes them so perfectly sweet and moist, and the cake doesn't dry out, even after several days. But the cake doesn't necessarily win here, because the frosting is incredible - maybe we can call the cake and frosting on the cupcake a win-win!
My mother is an amazing baker, and she is the one who first introduced me to these coconut cupcakes. It was always such a special treat when she made them for the family. A few months ago I was put in charge of the refreshments for a church activity, and I knew that I wanted to make cupcakes. When I started to think about what types of cupcakes I should make, these immediately came to mind (along with some lemon cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes). I called up my mom to find out where I could get the recipe, and she told me that the recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa. No wonder they are so good! I made the cupcakes with some minor changes (such as cutting down on the amount of frosting, because otherwise the cupcakes have a frosting tower), and they were a huge hit at the activity.
I recently made the cupcakes again for Greg's birthday, and I brought some of them to an end-of-the-year work luncheon (I have to brag here, tomorrow is my last day of work & then it's summer break)! I also brought the cookie dough truffles and coconut truffles to the luncheon, since there were several requests for them.
Yesterday Greg was teaching me how to use his nice camera so I could take pictures of the cupcakes for this post. It took a ton of willpower for me not to reach out and gobble up one of the three cupcakes for the shot! They smelled SO good. I hope you enjoy these coconut cupcakes as much as I do.

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


INGREDIENTS:
3 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups of granulated sugar
5 jumbo-sized eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. of almond extract
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 cup of buttermilk
1 14-ounce bag of sweetened shredded flaked coconut

Frosting:
1 1/2 packages of 8-ounce cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. of almond extract
1 pound of powdered sugar, sifted (1 pound is usually 1 regular-sized bag of powdered sugar)

DIRECTIONS:
Line cupcake or muffin pans with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on high speed until fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt together in a medium mixing bowl and sift together. Incorporate the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in to the batter. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is just combined. Mix in half of the bag of coconut in to the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner to the top with the batter. Bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a baking rack to cool completely.

When cupcakes are fully cooled, make the frosting. Put the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a bowl and use a hand mixer on low speed to cream everything together. Add the powdered sugar in and continue to mix on low until the frosting is smooth.

Frost cupcakes and sprinkle the rest of the coconut on the tops. YUM!
*Makes about 18 - 20 delicious cupcakes*

Adapted from: Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Chilled Strawberry Soup



One of my favorite things about spring and summer is the fabulous produce that is available for us to purchase. About a month ago a farmers’ market in my area started selling beautiful strawberries by the pint, and I went on a really big strawberry recipe kick in the kitchen (thanks to all the great recipes I found online). 

I was excited to find a recipe for a strawberry caprese salad from the cooking blog Pink Parsley, and even though the combination of strawberries with tomatoes sounded a bit odd, I had faith in the blog author/cook. I made the salad, and it was INCREDIBLE. I brought it to a backyard barbecue to share, and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the mix of strawberries, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. I never knew that strawberries paired so well with balsamic, but they really do. Just thinking about this salad has made me realize that I must make it again very soon! 

I also made a chilled strawberry soup one weekend while Greg was off teaching sailing lessons. It was so good that I ate the whole container before he got home; much to his disappointment. I will share that recipe today. The soup is sweet, smooth, and refreshing and it is perfect for enjoying outside on a nice spring or summer day. Not only is this dish tasty, but it is also good for you because strawberries are loaded with health benefits. They are full of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and antioxidants - so go ahead, eat them up!   

Chilled Strawberry Soup Recipe
INGREDIENTS:
3 cups of sliced strawberries, stems removed
1 1/2 cups of plain Greek yogurt (not reduced fat)
2 Tbsp. of heavy cream
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1/2 cup of Reisling or non-alcholic Reisling
Freshly ground black peppers
Sliced strawberries, for garnishing
Small pieces of fresh basil leaves, for garnishing

DIRECTIONS:
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Pour in to a bowl, cover with a lid, and place in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. Garnish with the sliced strawberries and basil. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy! 

Adapted from: My Recipes, originally from Southern Living


*I will be posting some other strawberry-inspired recipes very soon*