Monday, January 27, 2014

Lemon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

You know that saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?  Well, sure, I don't mind making lemonade but that's got a lot of sugar.  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE fresh homemade lemonade.  Even as I type this I'm craving it.  But, since I'm trying to lose weight and when a friend handed me a bag of lemons, I decided to made a tasty lemon vinaigrette salad dressing instead!!  I searched online and found an easy recipe; one that called for everything that I already had available in my pantry.  I'm really big on simple recipes and this one fit the bill.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (I added 4 cloves!)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar ( I added 1 tsp)
1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground pepper

For the salad:
Spring mix
Fresh spinach
Feta cheese
Grape tomatoes

Adapted from

I used a recycled glass container to for my dressing so I didn't need to whisk the ingredients because I shook them in the jar.  If you don't have a closed container then whisk all the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved.  Chill for an hour. Whisk ingredients before serving, or in my case, do the cha cha as you shake the jar.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Low Calorie Blueberry Scones

As you can tell, I LOVE home baked goodies.   That's why I bake all the time but the biggest drawback is the calories.  Now this is where this great recipe comes in handy.  These scones are only 196 calories as opposed to 460 at Starbucks.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Starbucks and am a regular customer but man, when they started listing the calorie content of their foods...uh, that was like an instant repellent for me.  I can't live without a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a nice chilled coffee drink in the afternoon but the extra calories and poundage I'd gain from eating their scones or, not good.  Anyways, as I'm waiting in line to order my coffee I wistfully gaze at the scones and wave goodbye to them.   Too many calories!

Determined to find a way to be able to have my cake and eat it too, I went on a recipe hunt. I didn't have to hunt for very long though.  This recipe calls for very little butter and sugar which is a good thing.  An even better thing is that they taste really good.  I've baked them and everyone who's tasted them really like them.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light:

1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

To brush over scones:
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar ( I used turbinado sugar-natural brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Cut butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.  I usually start out using a pastry cutter then end up using my hands to combine the butter with the flour mixture.  Add milk mixture, stirring until moist.  Warning: The dough will be really sticky especially if you're using fresh blueberries that have just been rinsed.  That little bit of extra water on the blueberries adds to the stickiness.

Dust a surface flour and turn dough out onto it.  I also dust the top of the dough too so its easier to work with.  Pat dough down into 10 wedges and place dough wedges onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

I used a flower cookie cutter with this batch so that the scones would be round but you can cut yours in to triangles.  Either way looks attractive.

I use parchment paper every time I bake cookies and scones.  It just saves to much time and is so much easier to bake the goodies on.  It's not that expensive so I highly suggest that you buy a roll.

Brush egg white over dough wedges, sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.  Bake scones at 375 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden.  Serve warm.

Mmmmm, nothing like warm blueberry scones right out of the oven!!! Yummm!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The BEST New York Black & White Cookies

When in New York City, I always treat myself to a black and white cookie.  These cookies are huge, probably about 5 inches wide, and coated with vanilla and chocolate frosting.  When you bite into it, it's soft and almost cake-like and oh so good.  I've always wanted to try baking them but was never satisfied with the recipe's that I found had listed for ingredients, especially the lemon extract.  In a black and white cookie??? Ew, gross.  The cookies I buy in New York don't have a hint of lemon in them so I've passed over many recipes until I found one in Cook's Country Magazine (February/March 2012) issue.  Yay, no lemon extract listed in the ingredients!  Plus it didn't look very complicated. Remember I like E-A-S-Y stuff.

Since I'm tawkin' about New York, I thought I'd share some photos from a vacation last year.  There's only a few so don't worry, you won't fall asleep (I hope).

Entrance to the New York Public Library
After I took the picture above, I later noticed the lady in the bushes.  I wonder what she's doing? Hey, it's New York, no telling right?

Brooklyn Bridge
I took this picture from a party boat.  Yeah, a party boat complete with dance floor and a Disc Jockey that played some rocking tunes.  I have to tell you it was kind of amusing to watch drunk people try to dance on a floor that rocked every time a wave hit us lol.

The music on the party boat was so loud that jet skiers and other people around us danced on their watercraft.  We musta' looked so cool that they just had to join us. lol

Flat Iron Building, one of my favorite buildings.

And finally, my favorite place to hang out, Greenwich Village.  There's just something about the place that I love.  Maybe because it just feels so laid-back.  Last time I was there, I was sitting in a coffee shop and ended up having a great conversation with a lesbian woman and her daughter.  People are just so friendly, contrary to what everyone else thinks of New Yorkers.  The city is just like no other.

Ok, now to the recipe.  Looking at my vacation photos wasn't so bad was it?

1-3/4 cup (8 -3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream

5 cups (20 ounces confectioner's sugar, sifted (whoops, I forgot to sift it!)
7 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons corn syrup (I didn't have any corn syrup so I used agave syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted (I didn't sift this either, geez I'm a bad baker!)

For the cookies:
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Using a stand mixer (I used my handy dandy handheld mixer) fitted with a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of sour cream, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Give dough final stir by hand.

Using greased 1/4- cup measure, drop cookie dough 3 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets.  Whoops, I didn't read this part of the recipe but no big deal, I just scooped out the dough with a little spatula.

Bake until edges are lightly browned, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.  Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

For the glaze:
The recipe says to whisk the sugar, I used my mixer instead because as you combine the mixture it's a bit THICK.  So mix 6 tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt together in a bowl until smooth.  Transfer 1 cup glaze to a small bowl; reserve.  Mix cocoa and remaining 1 tablespoon milk into remaining glaze until combined.

Note: The glaze was a bit too thick so I added a tiny bit more milk (about a teaspoon) until it was easier to manage.

Working with one cookie at a time, spread 1 tablespoon vanilla glaze over half of UNDERSIDE of cookie (the flat part).  Refrigerate until glaze is set, about 15 minutes.  It was cold in my kitchen so I didn't bother refrigerating the glazed cookies. 

Cover other half of cookies with 1 tablespoon of chocolate glaze and let cookies sit at room temperature until glaze is firm, at least an hour.  Serve.  Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Enjoy the cookies!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole

My friend Cindy gave me this recipe a few years ago and every Thanksgiving my family asks that I make it for them.  It's so damn good you can't stop eating it. The rich butter flavor in the sweet potatoes combined with the brown sugar topping is to die for.  The only catch is that it's a bit fattening but hey, you have to splurge once in awhile right?

If you need to take a dish to a potluck or family gathering and want something easy to make this is the recipe for you.  I guarantee it'll be a hit.

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole:

3-5 cups mashed sweet potatoes (this is about 6 medium to large sweet potatoes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup softened cubed butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Okay, first you've got to bake the sweet potatoes.  Cindy suggests boiling them but I prefer to bake them instead.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.  The reason for this is because the sweet potatoes will drip and you don't want to spend the afternoon scrubbing the hardened liquid off of the pan.

Clean each potato under running water to remove any dirt.  Poke each potato with a fork approximately 6 times (some cooks instruct you to stab the potato but that sounds too violent. I'm a kinder, gentler cook/baker! lol) This allows steam to escape.

Put the potatoes on the lined baking pan.  Bake for approximately an hour.  Baking time will vary depending on size of each potato.  The smaller ones will bake faster so be sure to check them by poking them with a fork.  If the fork goes in and out easily, that means it's done.

Allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them.  Peel skin off, put them in a large bowl, and mash them.  Beat together the mashed potatoes and first 6 ingredients.  Pour into a lightly greased 9" x 12" pan (or glass casserole dish or foil tin if you're going to leave it at a potluck).

For the topping:
Cut the butter into the other ingredients (except the pecans) with 2 knives (I used my's faster)  until it's crumbly.  If it's not crumbly, add a little more flour.  Add the pecans and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight to bake later if you want, just make sure it's covered)

Bake uncovered in an oven for 45-50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

That's it!  It's a simple and delicious dish.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Cherry-Filled Pastry Pillows

Wow, check this out.  Two blog posts in ONE weekend! I took a break from my classes to cook and bake my heart out.  Actually, I also was practicing taking photographs too.  Right now in my photography class we're working on taking pictures of products.  I think the next few classes we will focus on food.  I'm kind of gearing myself up for that.

Anyways on to baking; I found this recipe at the check out lane where all the impulse items are located.  I briefly glanced at the chocolate candy and other sweets but my attention was immediately drawn to the magazine rack.  I love browsing through food magazines.  And yes, I have even been known to pick up a National Enquirer on occasion but invariably, the beautiful food covers catch my eye.  As I flipped through the magazine (can't remember the title), I saw the recipe for these beautiful fruit filled pastries and had to try it.  It only called for a few ingredients so it was love at first sight.  I looked it up on the internet and found this one from Better Homes and Garden.

Recipe from Better Homes and Garden Magazine 2009:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut up
1 can cherry pie filling (you can also use 1/4 cup raspberry, apricot, peach, or strawberry preserves)
1/4 cup Almond paste (I didn't use this and they came out fine)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar or pearl sugar (I sprinkled regular sugar over the pastries)

In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined.  Add flour mixture.  As cream cheese and butter mixture gets combined with the flour you'll find it is going to be pretty unruly.  The dough kept creeping up and I had to keep pushing it down.  When completely mixed, divide dough in half.  Cover and chill about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 2 inch squares.  I used a square cookie cutter and it worked like a charm.  The recipe says to put the squares onto ungreased cookie sheets but I put mine on parchment paper and then onto the cookie sheets.  I'm not a big fan of scrubbing pots and pans after I've baked and have found that parchment paper works wonders when it comes to shortening the cleanup time.

Since I used cherry filling, I put 3 cherries & some filling on each square.  The recipe says to put a scant 1/4 tsp of preserves onto each square AND 1/4 tsp of almond paste.  I suppose I could have done that too but I'm a rebel in the kitchen.  I'm just so wild. lol (and a complete dork).  Maybe that's why my pastry puffs came out so messy? Eh, who cares? They still look good right?

In a small bowl beat together egg and water.  Brush edges of squares with egg mixture. Top each with a second dough square. Using a fork, gently press edges to seal.  Brush tops of pillows with egg mixture.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown.  I highly recommend baking them until they are golden brown.  If you do that they'll hold their shape better and not shrink and get wrinkly.

Transfer to wire racks to cool.  If you follow the directions exactly how the magazine says you should, you'll end up with about 52 cookies.  I ended up with about 24 because I made them a little larger.

To store: Layer pillows between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator.

The pastry puffs tasted really good but I think the next time I make them I'm going to use an icing to top them instead of sugar.  Since the dough has no sugar in it and I just think that icing would be a nice complement to pastries.  If you want to try my suggestion, here is a recipe for pop tart icing.  Let me know how it goes!