Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chocolate Dipped Cherry Cupcakes

I think we all know that chocolate makes just about everything better. #truestory
Take these cupcakes for example: sure cherry and vanilla cake are already pretty close to perfection. Paint a little chocolate on top of a cupcake and top with a chocolate dipped cherry and *hello absolute perfection*. 
These pretty little treats can also be made as a 9 X 9 cake instead but the cupcakes are just so darn cute, how can you resist? 
P.S. - Recipe can easily be doubled. 

Chocolate Dipped Cherry Cupcakes


1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup blended cherries
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh cherries, finely chopped

Chocolate layer
3/4 to 1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

Cherry Buttercream
1 cup butter, room temp
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cherry jam

Chocolate Dipped Cherries
16 fresh cherries, stems attached
remaining melted dark chocolate chips from the chocolate layer

Prepare cupcakes - Preheat oven to 350. Line 16 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in sugar. Once sugar is fully incorporated, beat in egg and vanilla and almond extract. Stir in the blended cherries. 
Alternately beat the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the wet ingredients. Lastly, stir in the chopped cherries.

Scoop batter evenly into the prepared cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. 

Remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Once cupcakes are cooled completely, either dip the top of the cupcake in the melted chocolate OR use the back of a spoon to spread about 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of melted chocolate on top. Let sit until chocolate sets.

Once chocolate has set, prepare buttercream.
Prepare buttercream - In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth. Lastly, beat in the cherry jam.
Note - If frosting is to thin, add a bit more icing sugar OR let frosting sit in fridge to harden up a bit, if it is too thick, beat in a few spoonfuls of milk. 
Pipe or spoon the frosting on to the cupcakes.

Prepare chocolate dipped cherries - Dip the cherries halfway into the remaining melted chocolate, Let sit on a piece of plastic wrap until chocolate sets up. Place one cherry on top of each cupcake.

Chill until ready to serve. 

So pretty.... and not just on the outside....

Look at that moist vanilla cake flecked with pretty pink cherry pieces. 
*eeeee* so purdy. 
Turn a regular vanilla cupcake into something *spectacular* with a few simple ingredients. You'll have your guests lining up for more. 

Be sure to visit Carole's Chatter for some fun links!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chicken Teriyaki Pasta Salad

I first made this salad a few years ago and, as often the case with recipes I fall in love with, I put it in my recipe box so I could make it again later. But then, as is also often the case, I forgot about it. 
*Sigh* So many good recipes to re-make, so little time.
Anyhoooo.... Jo and Orra and I needed a new a lunch idea for our catering business and this hearty and healthy salad popped into my head. It's easy, tasty, and definitely filling for lunch or dinner. 
The ingredients seem a little strange to be going together but, for whatever reason, they work really well. Like.... magically well.
Who knew teriyaki chicken and feta and olives would be a thing?

Chicken Teriyaki Pasta Salad
(Slightly adapted from Company's Coming, Pasta Cookbook)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp garlic powder

4 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3 tsp chicken bouillon powder
salt & pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 cups mixed greens
2 cups cooked Healthy Choice rotini, cooled
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced black olives

toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Prepare marinade - Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, mustard, ginger, and garlic powder. Slice chicken into bite sized pieces and toss in the marinade. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight). 
After chicken has marinaded; preheat oven to 350. Lay chicken on a foil lines cookie sheet. Bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.  Brush with the marinade at 10 minutes and flip chicken over. Bake another 10 minutes, or until chicken is done. Let cool.
*NOTE* - chicken can be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in fridge. 

Prepare dressing - whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic salt, bouillon powder, and salt & pepper. Whisk very well to dissolve the sugar. (Dressing can be made ahead of time but will separate. Simply whisk together again just before serving.)

Toss half to 3/4 of the dressing with the cooked pasta. It should be well coated. 

Assemble your salads - on a serving dish, place 2 cups of mixed greens. 

Top with 1/2 cup rotini.

Top with 1/4 of the chicken.

Top with 2 Tbsp crumbled feta.

And, lastly, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of olives.

If desired, drizzle with more salad dressing. 

Repeat 4 more times. 
If desired, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. 
You can prep everything ahead of time and just keep the ingredients separate until ready to serve. These also work really well as an office lunch.

This was Jo's salad for lunch the next day at work. She didn't add any olives because she says olives are yucky. *whatever*.
The greens do get a little wilted if you prep the salad and leave it overnight. It is best to make it as close to serving time as possible. It doesn't ruin the salad by any means, it just isn't as fresh. 
Also.... feel free to use more or less ingredients to your preference. 
Love feta? sprinkle on more. Don't like olives? leave them off. You can also just use lettuce or spinach if you don't want to use mixed greens. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Baked Cheesecake Cones

Sometimes I get these ideas for recipes in the middle of the night and I get very excited.
I have to call up Sue and get her opinion and then my mother, for her opinion as well. Sometimes I draw little diagrams (Click HERE for my Cheese Turkey experience. Trust me. It's fantastic.) 
After this idea popped into my head I spent about 40 minutes scouring the internet trying to find if someone had beat me to it. 
Guess what?
Couldn't find a single thing. 
Oh, sure, there was similar ideas. No bake and such. But nothing that could steal my thunder. 
Nothing like the internet for letting you know you're not as big of a creative genius as you think. 
BUT...not this time internet.... not this time...
A funny side story to this.... I just finished telling Sue and our mom what a super genius I am (and modest, apparently) and my mom starts laughing. "Check out your horoscope," she says.

1. It was an accident prone day. I stubbed my toe and got a wicked paper cut at work. 
2. See that last line there? " might have a genius-like idea." 
The accuracy is astonishing. Am I right? Although, I will say there was nothing "genius-like" about the idea. It was pure genius. 
Anyway. Horoscope predictions aside, I hope you give this recipe a try. It is a pretty cool way to serve cheesecake and you can top it however you like!

Baked Cheesecake Cones

1 (8 oz) brick Philadelphia cream cheese, room temp
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

2 cups whipping cream
1 box (4 serving size) vanilla pudding

8 to 10 ice cream cones
1/2 cup cherry pie filling (approx)

Preheat oven to 325. 
In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Lastly, beat in the egg. 
Carefully pour filling into the ice cream cones to about 1/2 inch from the top. (Note - we poured the filling into a plastic bag then snipped the corner, then piped the filling into the cones. This can be less messy and a little quicker than trying to spoon into the cones.) The filling will puff up a bit but not that much. You just want to leave a bit of room for the cherry pie filling. 

You can use pointy cones, as pictured above. We placed a wad of tinfoil in an oven safe coffee cup and then balanced the cones in the cup. We then placed the coffee cup on a cookie sheet. The cones are quite stable using this method. 

If you prefer to use the flat bottom cones, they sit quite well in a mini muffin tin. We filled the cones up to inner brim of the cone. 
Bake at 325 until filling is cooked through. We did 15 minutes, turned the tray, and then another 10 minutes. We shut off the heat and left the cones in the oven another 5 minutes, just to be sure. That's a total of about 30 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. 
Remove from oven and let cool to room temp.

As you can see, the filling domes up a bit but not a lot. 

The flat bottom cones use a bit more filling than the pointy cones. We baked both types of cones together at the same time and the flat bottom ones only needed about 1 or 2 minutes longer. 
When cheesecake has cooled, prepare topping.
In a medium mixing bowl, pour in the whipping cream and then add in the pudding powder. Beat until stiff, this only takes about 1 - 2 minutes. 
Take the cherry pie filling and place a spoonful on top of each cone. 

Fill the cone to the top.

You can use whichever type of filling is your favorite at this point. Pie filling, caramel sauce, chocolate, etc...
Pipe or spoon the frosting onto the cones. Top with a drizzle more of the filling. 

Sue went a little crazy with the one below. Chocolate and cherry and sprinkles. 
Guess which one we sampled first....

Keep chilled until ready to serve. 
I would say this recipe would make about 8 flat bottomed cones or 10 pointy cones. It can easily be doubled. We got 5 flat bottoms + 3 pointy during our trial run. 
** NOTE ** We recommend not topping the cones until just before serving. They can get a little drippy so may be harder to store. Also... the ice cream cones DO get a little bit soft. Not squishy by any means but, especially around the top, they do lose a bit of the crunch. 

You can use a mini spoon to devour them if you are worried about getting cheesecake on your face. 

Serve them in a glass filled with colored candies. This totally ups the fun factor as well, FYI.

The flat bottom cones can sit on just about anything..... just keep in mind they are a little wobbly. 
Top however you like... or not at all. But really.... I mean..... toppings are awesome. 

Look at all that cheesecake-y goodness in there. 
The pudding whipped cream, cherry pie filling, and creamy cheesecake combined with the deliciousness that is an ice cream cone is definitely something you want to try. 
Trust me.
Horoscopes never lie about genius ideas. 

**UPDATE** - These are best the day they are made. The next day the flat bottom cones are a little soft, the pointy cones stay firmer but still soften a bit. They still taste delicious but the texture of the cone definitely changes the longer they sit.

We're sharing at these fun linky parties! Be sure to check them out: Dizzy Busy & Hungry, Lou Lou Girls, Simple Life of a Fire Wife, Carole's Chatter

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Kielbasa, Zucchini, and Cauliflower Rice Skillet

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." 
You've read the famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet but did you know she may have been talking about this particular dish? 
Of course, I can't verify this. I've just heard some rumors. 
Any woman who writes, "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach" must have been talking about this ridiculously delicious combination of vegetables and sausage.
It's true.
Try it
You'll fall in love with how easy, healthy, and tasty this meal is. 

Kielbasa, Zucchini, and Cauliflower Rice Skillet

1 Tbsp oil
1 lb kielbasa sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of cauliflower, grated
juice from half a lemon
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp prepared mustard
1 large zucchini, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet over medium high heat, drizzle with the 1 Tbsp oil. Place the kielbasa in the skillet in one layer. Let cook for about 3 minutes then flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove sausage to a bowl. 

Add the 2 Tbsp of butter to the pan. Melt the butter in the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Add in the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add in the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, uncovered.

Add in the juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper, and the mustard and stir to combine.
Add in the zucchini.

Cook and stir another 5 or so minutes, until the zucchini is tender.
Add in the frozen peas and the kielbasa.

Stir until warmed through.
Turn off the heat and sprinkle the dish with the Parmesan cheese. Cover with a lid and let sit about 2 minutes, until cheese is melted. 

Serve hot. (Also - this will keep for a day or two, covered, in the fridge, and can be reheated for delicious leftovers!) 

I had this with a glass of iced sangria and can I just say, "I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew what she was talking about. 
(According to Myfitnesspal the nutritional count is: per serving - 329 calories, 19 carbs, 22 fat, 18 protein, 6 fiber. [Recipe makes 6 servings])  Keep in mind the nutritional counts will vary a bit with the size of your cauliflower and zucchini. Use these counts as a rough estimate! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Keema Dip

This recipe is a bit of a spin on the classic South Asian meat dish Keema. Keema is made with minced meat and is often served as a side dish. I figured this would be a perfect dish to experiment with as my entry into the Food Bloggers Of Canada blend and extend appetizer contest with Mushrooms Canada . Have you heard of the blend and extend method?
According to Food Bloggers of Canada - " If you haven't heard, Blend & Extend is a great new concept, blending finely chopped mushrooms into your favorite ground beef dishes. Blending mushrooms into meals like tacos, lasagna, and burgers adds another serving of vegetables to your plate, boosts the nutritional profile of the dish, adds volume to meals, and helps extend portion sizes." 
We've put a bit of a spin on traditional keema and made it into an appetizer. 

We've served our dip with naan bread but it would work equally well in lettuce cups or even with tortilla scoops. 

Keema Dip

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno
1 lb extra lean ground beef
16 oz button mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika 
1 tsp garam masala
1 bunch kale
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas

naan bread
Greek yogurt

First thing you want to do is prep all your ingredients.
Finely chop the onions, mince the garlic and jalapeno, measure out the spices, chop the kale, open the can of tomatoes, and pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until they are finely chopped.

When all your ingredients are ready, you are good to go. (HINT - After I chopped the mushrooms in my food processor I threw in the garlic and jalapeno and pulsed until fine. That saved me having to mince them by hand!) 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When it is hot, add in the cumin and mustard seeds. 

Cook and stir for about 1 minute, until seeds start popping. 
Add in onions and cook and stir for 5 minutes. 

Add in the garlic and jalapeno and cook another minute.
Add in the ground beef.

Cook until beef is browned.
Add in the finely chopped mushrooms and spices.

Cook and stir for 2 - 3 minutes.
Add in the kale.

Cook and stir 2 - 3 minutes.
Add in tomatoes.

Stir in well.
Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
Lastly, add in the frozen peas and cook and stir another 1 - 2 minutes. 

Remove from heat and serve hot.

Drizzle with some Greek yogurt to add a bit of tang and to make it even prettier. (If that's possible)

Serve with naan bread (or even lettuce cups or tortilla scoops). 

This recipe is super easy to work with. You can add more heat or less heat by using more or less jalapeno - you can even add a bit of cayenne if you like! 

Don't worry too much about the size of the ingredients - more onions, kale, mushrooms won't really change the recipe too much. 

This is a perfect appetizer before an Indian meal or, as I discovered, when you are just having a few friends over for a glass of wine and snacks. We made pretty short work of the whole batch but you can easily half the recipe if you think it is too much (FYI - it's totally not. You'll eat it all. Trust me.)
It may seem like a lot of ingredients but it's really not. They are mostly spices. 
I think from start to finish this took me about half an hour to make, and that includes going into the garden to pick the kale. 
P.S. - it reheats really well too if you want to make it up ahead of time. 
We're sharing at  Carol's Chatter, be sure to check it out!