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!

divider

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.

Advertisements

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.

divider

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.

divider

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.

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.

divider

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.

dividerVariations

  • 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?

divider

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.

divider

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!

Irish Soda Bread with Currants and Flax

Irish soda bread

Irish soda bread

Almost every Friday, my partner’s architecture firm has a team breakfast, with a rotating schedule of responsibility.  When it’s B’s turn to provide, I try to bake something fresh (often in the wee hours the morning of).  I’ve made fresh popovers, muffins galore… and today, in honor of Saint Patty’s this weekend, Irish soda bread.

This recipe uses the traditional ingredients of black currants and flaxseed.  (Unfortunately, on this occasion there were no currants available at our local co-op, and so I substituted non-traditional raisins for similar sweetness.)

Flax has been grown in Ireland for hundreds of years.  I found a registry of Irish flax growers from 1796, and discovered 11 of my partner’s relatives on the list!  The plant fibers are used to make linen, leaving the seeds for human consumption.  Flax seeds are high in dietary fiber, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great (unobtrusive) addition to baked goods.  Just make sure to drink plenty of water, or you might find yourself a little… um… backed up, for want of a more polite term.

(more…)

Meatless Monday: Easy Mini Quiche Recipe

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

This weekend, I was privileged enough to celebrate Gabrielle’s upcoming nuptials with a fantastic group of ladies. Now, what happens at a bachelorette party stays at the party, but one thing I can speak to is the food — because I made it. Okay, not all of it. For dinner proper, we had a beautiful prix-fixe designed especially for us by the friendly folks at First Crush, but there was a good stretch of activity before dinner, for which we needed fuel. And I spent all day Friday (and Saturday morning) making sure we had that fuel, in the most delicious and convenient packages possible.

These mini quiches are ideal for party finger food, as I served them, or simply as a handy on-the-go breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (You all know from my passion for muffins how much I love food you can easily grab and go.) They’re also a great source of protein for those of us who choose to intentionally eat vegetarian regularly — whether it be Meatless Monday or not!

The fact that they’re incredible easy to make, as well as transport, is not to be undervalued either. When you’ve got several dishes to knock out, a simple but elegant appetizer like this is a godsend. Whereas I would normally make my own crust, cut out circles, prebake, and so on, I cut corners (but not flavor) by using the organic herbed ciabatta rolls found in my local co-op’s small frozen section. You can customize the recipe by using whatever rolls you prefer, along with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.

divider

Quick Mini Quiche Recipe

Makes 16 muffin-sized quiches.

  • 1 package small frozen rolls (at least 8 rolls)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • small bunch rainbow chard, or other wilt-able greens
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 cup low-fat or skim milk
  • 4 large eggs (free range/organic, if possible!)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bake your frozen rolls according to the package’s instructions, and set aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 375°F for the baking of the finished quiches. Then, prep your veggie ingredients. Chop and lightly sauté the onion garlic in olive oil with fennel seeds. Add your greens and as they wilt, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until all excess vinegar is evaporated. I also made fire-roasted bell peppers (click for how-to), but you could easily throw them (or almost anything else) into the sauté pan with your onion and greens.

Next, mix your quiche filling. Whisk together milk, eggs, paprika, mustard, salt, pepper, and thyme.

To assemble your quiches, spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray. (If you want to present your quiches in cupcake papers as I did, you will do that after baking, when they are already holding their shapes.) Cut your rolls in half and place one half in the bottom of each muffin cup. Sprinkle half of your Parmesan over each “crust,” then distribute your vegetables evenly over that. Pour egg mixture over each, and bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Let cool, then transfer each quiche into the festive cupcake papers of your choice!

dividerPretty easy for a fancy party appetizer, right? The best part of it all is, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. No more excuses for letting that spinach go bad in the fridge. No more ordering in because you think you don’t have a vehicle for the ingredients on hand. I give you: the Quiche That Cures Many (If Not All) Ills.

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quiches

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quichesSpecial Preview...

 

Special Preview…

Coming this week on Foodies: Gourmet lemon drop jello shots in lemon rind wedges!  They look just like lemon slices, but taste just like your favorite citrus cocktail!

Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

With the warm weather we have been enjoying in the last few days, I have been on a salad kick.  I love salads, they are a wonderful backdrop for a variety of ingredients and allow for culinary creativity. The trick with salads as main courses is packing in some protein so that you get full and have enough nutrients.

This particular salad was derived from one of my favorite Bruschetta recipes, which I originally found on Epicurious. The Bruschetta is made of up a fava bean dip, spread on toasted bread, and a blood orange salad on top.  Last night, I decided to put baby lima beans in a salad with blood orange slices and dressing, and topped with avocado and sourdough baguette pieces.

divider

Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

  • 1 1/4 cups frozen double-peeled lima beans (about one 14-ounce bag), thawed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces Arugula
  • 1 Avocado
  • 6-8 Slices of Sourdough Bread (optional)

If not already thawed, soak frozen lima beans in warm water. Prepare blood oranges: Grate the zest from one orange, juice enough to get 3 tbs, and cut the rind and white pieces off of two, to get several small sections of the fruit itself.  Combine the juice, zest, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add the white balsamic and olive oil, and whisk together until fully combined.

Once beans are fully thawed, heat them and 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan on high heat until water is bowling. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender, approximately 10 minutes total. Drain beans and place them in a separate container to cool. Meanwhile, toss the arugula in the prepared dressing. Slice avocado into long, thin pieces, and prepare baguette into 1 inch slices.  Once beans are room temperature, add them to the arugula mixture and toss. Add orange pieces.

Serve with avocado on top and bread on the plate.

dividerShay and I both found this salad a delicious balance of flavors with the blood orange and the garlic, but also filling with the avocado and the beans.  While I will admit that it has similarities to my last salad post, just try the combination of white balsamic, blood orange juice, and garlic, I bet you’ll want to use it in everything too. Happy Meatless Monday!

Green Tea Cupcakes with Pomegranate Foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

Green tea cupcakes topped with pomegranate foam

This weekend I was tasked with providing a non-chocolate dessert for an Oscars party. With a pomegranate languishing on my counter, I headed to Foodily, a website and smartphone app that makes it easy to find recipes by ingredient. A featured recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop caught my eye: Green Tea Pomegranate Cupcakes.

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

Gabrielle enjoys a cupcake

I love green tea desserts, and keep matcha powder in my pantry the way I do sugar, flour, and other baking staples. Green tea cake, green tea ice cream, green tea cocktails… you name it, I love it. I was slightly weirded out by the idea of putting pomegranate seeds into my batter the way the original recipe did, and was also low on useable pomegranate seeds, so I omitted that step. I also made changes to the recipe: using white whole wheat flour (reducing the amount to avoid changing the texture), adding vanilla, and making a more complex flavor profile for the foam topping. I also added cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites. The result: a perfect pairing of fluffy, earthy green tea cake cut with an airy topping with the tangy sweetness of pomegranate and a hint of orange. These little numbers got rave reviews, not only from Gabrielle, but from the rest of the group as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

(more…)

Meatless Monday: Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

In my quest to discover and invent delicious, healthy recipes, I have come to love tofu.  I used to think that it was bland, cardboard-like, or when uncooked, an undesirable texture. But as I have started to experiment, it’s really amazing how much you can do with tofu.  While I know I have only scratched the surface of tofu possibilities, one my favorite things to do with it is to lightly brown it.  It takes almost no time at all, and will take on the flavors that you cook it with.

In this recipe, I browned tofu on top of a bed of arugula and other mixed greens with a few of my favorite salad additions.   The toppings combinations are endless, but I found the crunch of cucumber, and green onion with the soft avocado made a lovely texture combination. The blood orange juice is a nice alternative to the usual suspects in a Japanese inspired dressing, but in a pinch, orange or lemon juice would also provide a nice balance to the sesame oil and white balsamic vinegar.

divider

Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

  • Juice from 1.5 medium sized blood orange
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 tbs “shoyu” (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger grated
  • 2 tbs White balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs Canola or other cooking oil
  • 2 14oz packs of extra firm tofu
  • 1 large bag of arugula or other desired salad green
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in thin rounds and then halved
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 small handful of sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl; taste and season as needed.  Prepare cucumber, avocado and green onion and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from tofu and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cooking oil, with salt and pepper in a large saute pan and bring to medium heat.  Saute tofu until golden brown on both sides *NOTE depending on size of saute pan, may need to cook tofu in multiple batches.  Meanwhile, toss the salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and avocado in the large bowl with the salad dressing.  Once the tofu has reached the desired color on both sides, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the room temperature tofu to the salad mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add sesame seeds last on individual portions.

divider

If you like this salad but want to try something different next time, instead of sauteing the tofu, caramelize it.  There really are so many ways to do tofu well.  So if your only experience of tofu so far has been as a bland, mushy, inferior meat substitute, give this recipe a try and see if you too become a tofu convert.  Happy Meatless Monday!!

Meatless Monday: Asparagus and Spinach Pesto

Super Natural Cooking coverI adore all things basil:  Caprese salads, adding it to pastas, and of course, pesto. The challenge is, Shay, my fiance, does not like traditional pesto (insert sounds of shock and slight outrage here).  So when my mom recommended that I start reading Heidi Swanson’s blog www.101cookbooks.com and then generously bought me one of her cookbooks, “Super Natural Cooking”, I was excited to see a pesto alternative recipe!!

For those who are unfamilar with Heidi Swanson, she is a San Francisco native who practices and preaches healthy eating with natural, organic, sustainable ingredients. Her recipes are inventive, varied, and absolutely delicious.

(more…)