Orange-Topped Black Bottom Cupcakes

Orange Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Orange Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Baseball fans are a highly superstitious bunch, and our household is no exception. Our San Francisco Giants won the pennant last night in a landslide victory against the Cardinals, and B and I are convinced that these cupcakes are part of the reason why. We were losing the series until I baked these beauties; after eating them, we’ve been unbeatable. When it comes to mystical game-winning powers, your mileage may vary, but if nothing else these cupcakes are guaranteed to be a magical eating experience.

Classic black-bottom cupcakes consist of a rich chocolate bottom and a cheesecake-like filling. I’ve modified the traditional recipe by using dark cocoa powder and adding a punch of orange to the cheesecake mixture, as well as using balsamic vinegar to bring out the bittersweet flavor of the dark chocolate and fruitiness of the citrus topping. The result is a beautifully balanced and surprisingly light dessert! The cake and filling are both moist and fluffy, while the richness of flavor means you can be satisfied with just one. And because these treats take advantage of a very simple cake recipe, they’re easy for anyone to make.

I was already thinking this recipe would be perfect for Halloween, but as you can see in the final result (top right), some of them turned out ghost-like, making them even more suited!

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Orange Black-Bottom Cupcake Recipe

Black Bottom Cupcakes (Before Baking)

Black Bottom Cupcakes (Before Baking)

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese (full-fat, low-fat, or Neufchâtel)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers.

To make your creamsicle filling, you first need to reduce the orange juice by about half. (This will concentrate the flavor without making the topping too runny in your final product.) Measure your 1/2 cup of juice and pour it into a shallow pan. Simmer over medium heat until you have about 1/4 cup. Set aside to cool off while you cream together the cheese, egg, and extracts, just until combined. Beat in juice and sugar, and set aside while you make the cake batter.

Finished Orange Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Orange Black Bottom Cupcakes

For cake batter, sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately, then pour into the dry mixture and mix just until combined. Working quickly, distribute the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups, then spoon the cheesecake topping to the center of the top of each cupcake. (Both mixtures should be fairly runny.) If you apply it to the center each time, the filling will naturally distribute both outwards and down into the cake itself.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the chocolate part of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Vegan Tacos with Guacamole and Corn Relish

Okay, confession time: I did not intend for these tacos to be vegan. I forgot cheese at the grocery store, and like Tim Gunn, not to mention every chef, I had to make it work.  Despite this lapse in cognitive function (I mean, me of all people, forgetting cheese!) the flavors came together quite nicely.

Tacos open up a world of possibilities. You can make them at any time of year, with whatever veggies are in season. I’ve been wanting to do veggie tacos for a while, and love using mushrooms as a meat substitute.  I chose chanterelles and crimini mushrooms, but you really could use any variety. Maddie has inspired me to work on texture combinations, and I have to say, the sauted mushrooms, crunchy corn, and creamy guacamole made for a winning mixture.

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Corn Relish:                                    

2 ears of corn roasted, kernels cut off from core

1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

3 medium sized heirloom tomatoes, diced into bite sized pieces

2 cloves of garlic crushed

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Guacamole:

3 ripe avocados

1/2 red onion

A handful of fresh parsley finely chopped

3 small gloves of garlic

Juice from 3 limes

1 tsp agave nectar

1/2-1 tsp green chili pepper, finely chopped

Tacos:

3 handfuls mushrooms of your choice

2 cloves of garlic, diced

6 corn tortillas

Arugula

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.  Meanwhile, carmelize your onion by placing a tablespoon of oil into a saute pan, and cooking your onion pieces on low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring frequently.  While your onions are cooking, cut your tomatoes and roast the two ears of corn until just tender (about 30-40 minutes depending on your oven). While you can combine the ingredients for the corn relish in any order, I prefer to let the tomatos and the garlic sit in the bowl together first before adding the other ingredients. Once your onions are tender and lightly golden brown, combine the remaining ingredients for the corn relish and set aside.

Mix the avocados, red onion, parsley, garlic, and lime juice in a medium sized bowl.  Add agave and the green pepper pieces. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium sized saute pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they look moist. Add garlic and cook until mushrooms are just starting to brown on the edges. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas. Once the mushrooms are done and the tortillas heated, plate all componants as desired.

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Despite giving a bad name to cheese lovers everywhere by forgetting the “most important ingredient”, this vegan experiment turned out quite well and I look forward to trying other types of veggie tacos in the near future…and there WILL be cheese.

The Foodies are Coming Back!

After a summer hiatus, we’re going to resume posting!!
We’ve missed blogging this summer, but I have to say, there has been plenty going on for both of us. In July, after a two plus year long engagement, Shay and I got married.

In addition to speaking during the ceremony, Maddie was also a bridesmaid, and helped out a ton with wedding related tasks both before (as in the two years leading up to) and day of.

Most importantly, she was, as she always is, an incredible source of love, support, and calm.  I could not have done it all without her. Needless to say, Shay’s and my wedding took a lot of both Maddie’s and my time. Since then, Maddie has been traveling for most of the summer, and Shay and I have a new little member of our household, our dog, Toby. Thank you for patiently waiting while we were interrupted by the happy vicissitudes of life.

While we’ve been away, we have been scheming and have come up with some new ideas for Foodies.  Instead of mainly focusing on one type of post weekly, we’ll be creating new recipes in many different categories, reviewing restaurants and kitchen tools, and of course, still writing about cheese.  I am really excited to post outside the lines, and become more creative in the kitchen.

Coming up very soon we’ll have Vegan Tacos, Roasted Peach and Brie Sandwiches, and Healthy Breakfast Fruit Crisp.

Easy Homemade Pimento Cheese Recipe

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Homemade Pimento Cheese

This past weekend, I had the honor of witnessing my sister Claire receive an MBA from Yale School of Management, marking her secondpost-graduate degree. (Can you tell I’m proud?) It was a whirlwind of a weekend in New Haven, but one of my favorite experiences of the trip was a quiet, homemade afternoon snack on Claire’s balcony: pimento cheese and mint juleps.

Claire’s partner Mary Katherine is from the South, and monogrammed mint julep cups are a traditional graduation gift in her family. In need of a Southern snack to accompany our libations, they came up with the brilliant idea of making pimento cheese, which MK blushed to admit she usually buys in a jar. As it turns out, there’s no reason to eat the canned kind, since it’s pretty darn easy to assemble and pretty darn hard to mess up.

While some of these ingredients I tend to shy away from (mayonnaise, canned peppers), they are essential to the traditional recipe. Once combined, the whole is much, much greater than the sum of its parts. Spread on a thin slice of baguette, with an ice-cold beverage, on a sunny day? A little slice of Southern heaven.

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Easy Pimento Cheese Recipe

  • 10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 7 oz jar of pimento (pimiento) peppers, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Combine mayo with cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Stir together with diced peppers and grated cheese until evenly combined. Can be made ahead of time and kept in an airtight container (refrigerated), but keep in mind that it will become spicier the longer it sits.

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  • A low-fat pimento cheese could be made with reduced-fat mayonnaise and 2% sharp cheddar.
  • Also, if you prefer a more homogenous texture, simply grate your cheese more finely, or briefly run it through a food processor with the seasoned mayonnaise before mixing in the pimentos.
  • No pimentos? We made an equally-delicious version with roasted red peppers, which you can buy in a jar or make at home!
Mint Juleps and Pimento Cheese

Mint Juleps and Pimento Cheese

Meatless Monday: Vegan Lemon Cookies

While I do not traditionally put meat in my cookies (and really do not want to imagine a recipe that calls for it), I am very excited to share my first vegan dessert experiment.  

One of the culinary explorations I’ve enjoyed most this last year is finding healthier ways to make your favorite treats.  Maddie was my first introduction to this type of baking, the fact that her Zucchini Bread was the best I had ever had, and it had no butter or oil in it, amazed me.

After extensive research, the egg substitute I was most excited by was ground flax seed and water.  Given the many health benefits of flax seed, it seemed too good to be true that it would also create the desired texture of eggs.  My doubts were whisked away as I watched the coconut oil, sugar, and egg substitute mixture thicken.  In addition, flax seeds add a little of their own flavor, it almost tasted like I had added a pinch of nutmeg, what could be better?

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Vegan Lemon Cookies

  • 1.5 tps of baking soda
  • 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of Coconut Oil, just melted
  • 3/4 cup Cane Sugar
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • lemon zest from 1.5 lemons
  • 2 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 6 tablespoons water (or other liquid)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the baking soda, flours, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine the coconut oil, and sugar, beat fully until dissolved.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Then mix flax seeds with water and add the mixture into the other ingredients. Beat together until mixture begins to thicken. Add dry mixture into wet mixture a little at a time, until fully combined.

Place small spoonfuls of dough on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until just golden on top, approximately 10 minutes depending on oven.

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Given that I had never made vegan cookies before, and was taking a risk doing them without a recipe, I decided to just cook a few first batch, to double check the texture.  I ended up placing the cookie dough in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool it off and temporarily thicken it up a bit.  The final texture was perfect, lightly chewy but still moist.  When I make these again, I will make sure that the dough stays relatively cool.

The lemon flavor together with the flax seed was an unbeatable combination and they were the perfect balance between sweet but not too sweet.

All in all, my first vegan baking experiment was entirely successful (she says modestly), and I am excited to expand into trying out cakes, and other delectable favorites. Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Spring Salad with Strawberries and Fresh Vegetables

I am a foodie very much driven by cravings.  I shutter to think what my poor husband to be will have to deal with if I am ever pregnant because I am sure this trait will only intensify.  On nights like tonight where my cravings are varied and many, I take the opportunity to experiment with flavor combinations I have not tried before. 

While the backdrop for tonight’s experiment is certainly not original (a salad), the flavor combinations were diverse and new to me.  I decided to go with strawberries, avocado, caramelized onions, and steamed vegetables. I added some firm goat cheese, California Crottin, to be precise, but without it, the salad would still be rich and flavorful.

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Spring Salad with Strawberries and Fresh Vegetables

Salad:

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1 large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1 handful of strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
  • 1 avocado
  • Mixed greens
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese for crumbling (optional)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 shallot finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Heat a medium saute pan with some olive oil on medium-low heat. Once the olive oil is hot, add the onion, and continue to saute until soft and golden brown.  While onions are slow cooking, steam the asparagus pieces and green beans, until they are just under done.  Rinse under cold water and put to the side. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients at the bottom of a large salad bowl.  Remove the caramelized onions from heat and add them to the vinaigrette mixture. Add steamed vegetables, strawberries, avocado, mixed greens and toss. Add goat cheese, and ample amounts of salt and pepper.

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Shay and I were both amazed how well the different flavors came together. The white balsamic, with the sweet strawberries, rich caramelized onions, and tart goat cheese complemented each other beautifully. Shay had seconds and then I practically licked the bowl. Embarrassing, I know, but try it, you will too. Hope you enjoy this hodgepodge of ingredients as much as we did.  Until next time, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Shells with Fresh Herbs

This was one of those meals that did not go according to plan and turned out better for it. The concept was simple enough, to create really flavorful stuffed shells.  Maddie and Brendan were coming over for dinner last night and I wanted to come up with a recipe that we could all assemble together.  Well, despite forgetting the eggs at the store, realizing that we had nothing to cover the baking dish with the moment it was supposed to go into the oven and making twice the amount of pasta that we needed, it turned out to be a delicious dinner.

My problem with most stuffed shell recipes is that they are almost flavorless, mostly consisting of ricotta, and very little spice.  In this recipe, I added ample amounts of my favorite herbs, and two flavorful cheeses to the traditional mixture to great success.

You could use your favorite pasta sauce, whether a homemade tomato or pesto, but I personally chose my favorite red pepper sauce from Pasta Shop in Rockridge.  I would recommend a light sauce like a tomato or red pepper to balance the rich shell filling.

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Stuffed Shells with Fresh Herbs
Filling

  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • ½ cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cup Ricotta
  • ½ cup finely grated Gruyere
  • ¼ cup shaved Parmesan
  • ½ tsp salt

Shells

  • 16 oz pasta shells

Preferred Pasta Sauce, preferably tomato or red pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees and bring a salted pot of water to a boil.  Combine the chopped herbs, garlic, and cheese in a large bowl and set aside.  Add shells to boiling water and cook until just al dente.  Run cold water over the shells in a colander before stuffing.  Spread a third of your sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Fill each shell with a small spoonful of the cheese and herb mixture. Place the filled shells in the baking dish and ladle remaining sauce on top, the shells should just be covered.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes on 300 then raise the temperature to 350 and cook for an additional 20 minutes, checking periodically. Shells are done when they are lightly golden brown on the edges and the sauce surrounding is bubbling.

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From Maddie giving me ideas for creating the best flavor combination, not to mention cooking with me in the kitchen the whole time, to Brendan and Shay stuffing the shells, this was entirely a team creation.

Despite forgetting the eggs and not having something to cover the shells with in the oven, they turned out fabulous. Because I made too much pasta and had extra sauce, Shay and I are enjoying some pasta with red pepper sauce for dinner tonight.  Here’s hoping all future culinary miscues produce such delicious results.  Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday Will Return Next Monday

With the lovely but busy holiday weekend, I will be taking a very brief pause from posting, but Meatless Monday will be back next week with new recipes.  However, I will still be observing Meatless Monday tonight with a lovely salad and soup to go, completely vegetarian.   Thank you so much for continuing to follow us and we’ll look forward to sharing new recipes next week.

Meatless Monday: Quinoa Patties with Sautéed Leeks and Gruyere Cheese

This recipe was adapted from the amazing Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Every Day, but I happened upon it on epicurious.  She also has a great baked version of the recipe on her blog

These patties are fairly easy to put together but are full of interpretative options.  I filled mine with the leftover combination of cheeses I used in a recent mac n’cheese (Irish cheddar, aged gouda, gruyere, and parmesan), sauted leeks, and fresh herbs.  You could easily do an Indian inspired version with garam masala, and cardamom or a greek one with mint, olives, and a tzatziki  dipping sauce, yum! The possibilities are endless.

I was inspired by Maddie’s recent “Quick Tip” for more flavorful pasta when cooking my quinoa. I cooked the quinoa in half water, half vegetable broth, with several sprigs of the fresh herbs I chopped into the patties.

Quinoa patties would make a great appetizer at your next party, or many meals to keep enjoying throughout the week.  I will admit that I’ve been so addicted, I have been eating them for almost every meal…for three days.

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Quinoa Patties with Sautéed Leeks and Gruyere Cheese 

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 tbs lemon thyme
  • 1 tbs fresh oregano
  • 2 tbs fresh basil
  • 1 sauted leek
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup your favorite hard cheese, grated (suggest a combination of gruyere, parmesan, and cheddar)
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup/3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed water, if needed
  • Cooking oil for pan frying

Combine cooked quinoa with eggs, and salt.  After eggs are well distributed throughout quinoa, add the fresh herbs, leeks, onion, cheese, and garlic.  Lastly mix the bread crumbs thoroughly and let the mixture sit for a few minutes so that bread crumbs fully absorb the moisture.  The final mixture should be able to be formed into patties but it needs to be as moist as possible without falling apart. If you need more moisture, add more beaten egg.  Alternatively, if the mixture is too moist, add more bread crumbs.

Pan fry in a little cooking oil until golden brown on each side, approximately 7-10 minutes per side, depending on the size of your patties. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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I served the quinoa patties with my favorite mayonaise, Lemonaise, with ample amounts of lemon juice added (being the citrus addict that I am).

Whether you serve them at your next party, or get addicted like me and live off of them for days, I hope you enjoy these delicious patties.  Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

With addressing wedding invitations, and staying up into the wee hours to finish our wedding website, Sunday night dinner needed to be both quick, and something that would not leave us feeling awful the next day.  I remember nights as busy as this in college where I would go with my closest friends to Dennys and have cheese fries and a root beer floats at 1am.  Very healthy, right? The truth is, the reason so many of us Americans turn to “fast food” is that it is fast, easy, and inexpensive, but quick, healthier dinners are well within our reach at home, and can be just as satisfying. My current, much healthier alternative, to the fast food of my past is soba noodles.

Soba noodles are just like quinoa or pasta: A backdrop for endless possibilities of accompaniments and flavor combinations.  On a night where I need the comfort of carbs, but would like something healthier and faster than traditional spaghetti, soba is my go-to choice.  The mild nutty flavor of soba pairs beautifully with shoyu or a mild vinegar, such as rice or white balsamic.  You can also use a store bought soba sauce, or make your own, some people even love just a little bit of sesame oil.  Last night, I put together a simple citrus, Japanese inspired dressing.

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Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs Shoyu
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Hoisin sauce
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, quartered
  • 2 servings soba noodles, approximately 5 oz
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • A handful of arugula per portion (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Prepare the dressing by combining the first 5 ingredients, and taste.  Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Place soba noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes while you prepare the green onions and cucumber.  Once soba noodles are just under done, drain and rinse in cold water to keep from continuing to cook.  Once noodles are fully drained, combine cucumber, green onion, and soba in a large bowl.  Dress and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Add a small handful of sesame seeds for crunch and arugula as desired.

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This is one of those incredibly easy vegetarian meals that is satisfying and gives all of us the opportunity to be creative.  Next time I may try it with avocado and soy beans, or perhaps even some mango.  I, personally, am grateful for easy, delicious, satisfying dishes like this that I can throw together on a busy night, instead of going to Denny’s at 1am. Until next time, Happy Meatless Monday!

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