Archive for August, 2011

August 30, 2011

School Snack Time


My daughter started Kindergarten this year! Yes, I am very excited about her being in school, probably as excited as my daughter. As a child, I loved school, especially the beginning of the year! Meeting new friends, teachers, organizing your new backpack and wearing those new clothes that you picked out weeks ago but only got to admire on hangers. A fresh start to a new year was exciting.

My daughter’s first day of kindergarten went smoothly, without emotional breakdown (not that I suspected my daughter would have any problems). She got to go to the “big kid” school, ride the “big van” at daycare and made a new friend. What an accomplished week for my little Kindergartener.  This year she goes to daycare before lunchtime at school so I do not have to make lunches, daycare provides lunch.  However, we do have to send a healthy snack for the morning at school.  So, my daughter and I sat down and made a list of healthy foods she likes and we made a quick reference guide when preparing snacks (I’m a list kind of person, I cannot live without them, they make sense of my world): carrots, apples with peanut butter, whole wheat saltines with peanut butter and jelly, cheese crackers, raisins, air-popped popcorn, fruit cups (homemade), and homemade granola bars.

You know me, if you read my blog, and I like to make everything from scratch. That is the only way to know, really, what is in my daughter’s food. So instead of store bought granola bars, I make homemade bars and send them to school with her. I pack them with high energy ingredients (do little kids really need more energy? yes, yes they do) and less sugar than in the store-bought bars. I use Alton Brown’s recipe – really anything he makes I trust, he’s the science guy of food.


(adapted from Alton Brown’s Granola Bars)

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups

1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup

3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup

1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup

6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup

1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed

1-ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries.

Other Add-ins: chocolate chips, marshmallows, peanut butter, cinnamon chips any combination your heart desires.

Nonstick cooking spray

Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In place of the first four ingredients, I used about 3-4 cups of my own homemade granola that was already made. If you are not using granola, spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Hope all of you out there enjoy this healthy snack!

August 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup—Cupcakes

This, my friends, will make you weak in the knees if you like chocolate, peanut butter, especially the two combined. Funny enough I know a guy, he doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate – I think someone needs to check his frontal lobe for injury or maybe his medulla oblongata needs adjusting!

Moving on…this was a fun cupcake to make. I was inspired by Amanda Cupcake (it must be in the name!) who made milky way cupcakes and melted milky way candy bars and added it to her frosting—so many ideas went fleeting through my head, but first this one…Reese’s PB Cups!


Chocolate Cake

(makes about 30 cupcakes)

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups minis (the smallest of them all)

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk and add the vanilla to the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 of the milk. Once all the milk and dry ingredients are mixed beat the batter for a minute or two.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18 minutes.


Peanut Butter Ribbon

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix ingredients together in a sauce pan. Heat over low heat stirring constantly until peanut butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Set and aside and cool, while making the frosting.

Melted PB Cups for Frosting

Melt 1/2 cup of peanut butter cups with a little heavy cream over low heat until completely melted. Set aside and cool while making the frosting.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter ribbon (recipe below)

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the peanut butter ribbon and milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

At this point you may cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place the frosting in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

In your pastry/frosting bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut off) drizzle a little peanut butter ribbon down one side of the bag and a little of the melted peanut butter cups down the other side, just enough coat the side of the bag. Don’t let the two pool at the bottom of the bag or you’ll have a giant glop of the candy without frosting. You want the candy to swirl in the frosting…this is fun!

Pipe on the frosting with your favorite tip (or if using a Ziploc cut the tip as big as you prefer for decorating).

Use the new Peanut Butter Cup minis (in the candy isle) to top.



August 16, 2011

Entertaining with Spanish Tapas


Yes, I have super slacked this summer on my blog. While writing this post I can’t even come up with a good title. I am stumped or something. Maybe the lazy days of summer have got me, maybe our hectic schedule lately has tripped me. But one thing is certain, I have just plain not wanted to cook much. The heat has made me not want to be around any household appliance that produces heat.   Yes, severely lacking motivation has not helped. Whatever this “down” period is, it can just go back to where it came from, from under a rock somewhere. I suppose everyone goes through periods where they are unmotivated, and the summer is probably the biggest killer for cooking activities.  Hot weather and it seems your daily activities get longer with the daylight so by the time you get home, you’re extra worn out.  With this post I am trying to kick it in gear and get back on track. I might be moving soon (again, yes) and my daughter is starting Kindergarten, so there are lots of big events ahead.  Lots of exciting events on the horizon. Instead of being emotional about my baby beginning school, I am actually really excited. Spending time helping out in her classroom, doing homework, hearing about her days making new friends and learning new things and making lunches—fun stuff. I’m that nerd who loved school – organizing my binders and pencils, excited for what I was going to learn the next year. And is it just me or did everyone love elementary school?  The signs of summer coming to an end are bittersweet. Meaning the start of my favorite cooking season – autumn/fall, meaning I can break out my beautiful Le Creuset  to stew and braise, and bake warm comforting foods.  Those traditional fall flavors for baking, such as: apple—cinnamon, cinnamon—pecan, cranberry—orange, pumpkin, and maple, make my eyes sparkle.  Don’t get me wrong I love summer and it did start late this year, but by the end of summer I am ready for the fall. The transitional seasons are really my favorite. It is like we get a fresh start on a new journey.   

This past weekend I had a little party (one of those hosted candle parties—let me know if you want to order anything…ha ha ha) and I made some Spanish Tapas to go along. Here are a few of my favorite things!


Feta Stuffed Mushrooms

Clean Mushrooms and remove stems. Toss with garlic and olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven add Feta (there will be some liquid in the caps just dump it) Sprinkle some crumbled feta. Cook for another 10-minutes.

Remove from oven and drizzle with olive oil


Shrimp Pil Pil

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 1T olive oil and 1tsp. red pepper flakes. Once the oil is hot add 1 T minced garlic stirring fast add 1lb raw peeled shrimp and 1/4 cup white wine. Stir shrimp until they are opaque – not completely cooked through (they will cook while they sit). You don’t want rubbery shrimp!



Roasted Tomato Tapenade

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse…Farm to Fork)

1 1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes (I used heirlooms fresh from the Farmer’s Market)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 springs thyme

3 springs fresh marjoram

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup kalamata olives

1 tablespoon capers

Preheat 450 degrees

Slice tomatoes in half. Mix the tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, and oil in a bowl. Lay cut side of tomatoes down on a nonreactive sheet pan with the herb sprigs. Roast for 20 minutes. Set aside until tomatoes are cool enough to handle.

Place tomatoes with garlic and any juice in a food processor or blender.  (discard the whole herb sprigs). Add vinegar, olives, and capers and blend, but leave it a bit chunky. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (Will keep for up to one week).

This tapenade was the hit of all of it. It is really good with a sliced roasted pepper or some marinated olives and a little soft ripened cheese! Yum!