Mini Carrot Cakes Three Ways: Trifle, Truffle, and Petit Fours (and a Bonus Recipe!)

 

16003205_724940090998782_4042343722220863909_n

Happy Hump Day!

I definitely made these carrot cakes weeks ago, and I am certainly late in posting this recipe; however, my film editor and I made the video in a timely manner, and I am excited to announce that we are beginning to shoot videos to correlate with the blog from today onwards…exciting!

Heres the video!

I’ve always loved carrot cake; I had a terrible craving a few weeks ago, but I didn’t necessarily want to make an entire two-three layered cake for myself (although that would probably go quickly, without fail). I am a fan of mini desserts; they’re whimsical, fun, and they don’t make the diet conscious too jealous. ūüôā

I decided to show you three ways of making mini carrot cakes because I couldn’t personally decide what I wanted to make. You don’t need to make three batches, either. All from one recipe you have three different desserts! If you have a favorite style, feel free to just make all petit fours or all trifles. It’s all up to you!

So…what’s the difference among the three?

Trifle:¬†Layering cake and alternating with cream/frosting. This is great when you have a cake crumble/fall apart, but you want to make it look like it was intentionally “deconstructed.” Put it in a shot glass or martini glass to show that it’s all ready for the party.

Truffle: Similar to the aforementioned situation, you could have a crumbly cake and bind it back together with some frosting/cream and shape it into a fun ball. Truffles sound fancier than cake pop, but who are we fooling? Feel free to coat these in white chocolate (like the petit four below) to keep its shape and give it a sweeter edge.

Petit Four: Ah, the creme of the creme. The small, tiny, perfect bite of layered cake. ¬†You can make it with the cream cheese frosting alone, or you may coat it in white chocolate on top to go for the sweetest level of deliciousness. I make round and square . Note: Round is easiest for pouring frosting and is the traditional “carrot cake shape.” Square can be done with or without the petit four cutter, but wastes much less cake than its circular counterpart.

If you are making these for entertaining, you may want to offer some choice for your guests. Also, it’s to show you how you can use one baking sheet pan to make a multitude of desserts. I can foresee this recipe coming into extreme popularity around Easter. For some people, they forget the sheer brilliance a carrot can bring to a dessert. I guess the fluffy bunnies serve as a reminder. ūüôā

Hopefully, making this recipe will inspire you to make your other favorite cake recipes in a similar manner: a small, thin layer on a baking sheet. I first learned this when I made Seven Layer (Rainbow) cookies over Christmas. I had a similar revelation when I made Almond Petit Fours with Apricot Jam for my friend’s baby’s first birthday. Making tiny cakes are now becoming quite the pastime for me! Any recipe that has similar measurements that I am mentioning below will work! I think I might do a chocolate cake with raspberry mousse and chocolate ganache petit four for Valentine’s Day! Decadent bites are the best!

If you are fine with square cuts, you don’t necessarily need to order a petit four cutter; however, I find using my round and square petit four cutter has come in handy. I ordered mine on Amazon.

Alright, Doc…here we go!

Carrot Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¬ľ teaspoon salt
  • ¬ľ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¬Ĺ cup of sour cream
  • ¬ľ cup ¬†canola oil
  • ¬Ĺ cup ¬†sugar
  • ¬Ĺ cup (100gr) brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 cup ¬†of finely grated carrots (preferably using a Microplane)

Optional, but recommended…

  • 4 ounces of chopped pecans (or you can also use walnuts, if you like!)
  • White chocolate candy coating (Microwavable tray, if possible)** (only if you want to have a candy coating for the truffle or petit four)

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • ¬ľ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

**P.S: You will have leftover icing, and you will not have a problem finding uses for it. Make some cinnamon rolls, or do what I did the next day…I made “Cinnamon Roll(ed) French Toast). So. Good. (I will post the “bonus” recipe) at the bottom.

First, make the cake!

  1. Take everything out that you need and grate your carrots before you begin! It’s quite the arm workout. ūüôā All ingredients should be at room temperature for this recipe. While you’re prepping, pre-heat your oven.
  2. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 375¬įF . Line 17x11in baking sheet with a parchment paper and spray cooking spray all over the parchment paper and on the sides. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can survive–just make sure you use enough cooking spray to get the cake out! It’s very thin!
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, mix together eggs, sour cream, oil, sugar and brown sugar until well combined. You may also add some vanilla extract here, about one teaspoon. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. Don’t overmix at this point. Fold in grated carrots from bottom to top.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet and tap a few times to get rid of bubbles. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and inserted toothpick comes out clean. It took me about 15 minutes.
  6. Make the frosting while the cake is cooling. Beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy for 1 minute.¬†Add powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for a minute. Then increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer into a piping bag with plain round tip, if desired.¬†If you don’t have a pastry bag, put your filling inside of a ziplock baggie. Squeeze it to a corner and using a scissor, clip a very small tip.

***To make all three desserts, I use a butter knife around the edge and slice vertically into three even pieces. I allocate one third of the cake to each dessert. Even if you’re only making the petit four, for example, you still want to slice the cake into thirds as you want layers of cake. This prevents you having to bake another sheet pan’s worth! You’ll be stacking one on top of the other.

Directions for Each Dessert

Trifle: In a given glass (martini or shot preferable), cut out and/or crumble carrot cake on the bottom. On top of this layer, add your cream cheese frosting. Alternate frosting and cake until you reached the very top.

Truffle: Scoop out 2-3 tablespoons of cake. Starting with a tablespoon of cream cheese frosting, put a dollop in your hands with the cake and roll into a ball like you would a meatball. Put in the freezer once rolled. Microwave the white chocolate. Stir every minute or so. Once properly melted, dip the truffle (or cake pop) into the tray and coat entirely. Let the truffle’s coating harden on a piece of parchment paper. To speed up the process, you may put the truffles inside a refrigerator.

Petit Fours:¬†Cut out your petit fours using your round and/or square petit four cutter. If you don’t have one, you may use a ruler and cut squares by making elongated cuts diagonally. ¬†Place the cutout cake layers¬†on wire rack. Pipe a heaping tablespoon of frosting on half of the cake squares/ circles. Put another matching cake on top. If going for less sweetness/tradition, put some cream cheese filling on top, ¬†using an offset spatula lightly spread the frosting and sprinkle optional pecans.

Alternative approach (if you are short on time/impatient)…put cream cheese frosting on whole layer of cake (remember, you cut your cake into three?) without cutting it into smaller pieces. Place a whole third of cake on top and press down. Put in the freezer for a few minutes to seal together. Using your petit four cutters/knife (if you’re cutting by hand), cut out your small cakes.

If you would like to candy coat your petit fours, make sure you freeze the cut cakes first. Melt your microwavable white chocolate tray in one minute alternates, stirring each minute for proper melting consistency. Once hot and melted, dip your cake and use a spoon to cover the entire mini cake with coating.Let the petit four’s coating harden on a piece of parchment paper. To speed up the process, you may put the truffles inside a refrigerator. Before it hardens completely, sprinkle on pecans, if desired. If you do not do it while it’s hot, it will not stick!

Enjoy!

Bonus Recipe: Cinnamon Roll(ed) French Toast (Recipe inspired by Scrambled Chefs)

 

16194903_727584080734383_6643892865896689340_n.jpgIngredients

  • 12 slices of white bread, crusts removed
  • butter for greasing the pan (or you can use cooking spray)
Cream Cheese Topping
  • Use your leftover cream cheese icing from above!
Cinnamon Filling
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp cinnamon powder
Egg Mixture
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (add more if you want!)
  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar
Cinnamon Sugar Coating
  • ¬ľ cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients to make cinnamon filling. At this time, take out your leftover cream cheese frosting and make sure it’s room temperature.
  2. Prepare the egg mixture by slightly beating the egg and adding milk to it. Mix well. Add cinnamon and sugar as directed.
  3. Combine white sugar and cinnamon powder in a plate and set aside.
  4. Remove crusts from the white bread slices and with the help of a rolling pin, roll up the bread flat.
  5. Spread ¬Ĺ to ¬ĺ tbsp worth of cinnamon filling onto the bread and roll up. You do not need anything to help this stick together as the filling will do that for you. Roll it up tightly!
  6. In a non-stick pan, heat a little butter on a low to medium heat. Dip the roll ups into the egg mixture and place on the frying pan. ¬†Let excess dredge before placing in the pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan. I made about 6 at once (they look like tiny eggrolls, but man are they filling!)
  7. Keep turning the french toast every 30 to 45 seconds or until slightly golden brown on one side.
  8. Remove from pan when every side is down and immediately put them in the coating mixture prepared early. Roll it around while it’s hot so it sticks.
  9. Serve with cream cheese glaze as a topping or for dipping.
  10. Serve immediately for the sweetest breakfast/dessert! ūüôā

Mini Meatloaf with Russett Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

 

15826793_10208123935069328_5613085375040848871_n.jpgHappy New Year!

I know, I know. I went almost three months without blogging. Believe me–I have not gone all this time without cooking, but I haven’t had a minute to write, and I am sorry! Around this time last year I started this blog, and it was my resolution then to share my recipes with the world. I want to continue that promise to you.

Now I’ve spoken with a few friends of mine, and they have suggested I do a video demonstration as well–this may be in the future! If you have any food requests/techniques you would like to be explained, particularly in video format, let me know.

I made so many meals since I’ve last blogged, and I wasn’t sure where to begin, so what I decided to do was to just post what I made tonight. It’s a top 10 for my husband; it’s a secret family recipe that I have modified. It’s also now freezing cold, and now that Christmas is over, people are using their ovens for comfort foods and not for cookies.

Now if you are a resolutionist, by all means, you can still make this. I made this in a miniature format so that you can have tasty, indulgent meal without the guilt. It is portioned appropriately. If you’re not dieting, then go for seconds and enjoy its cute presentation.

I love meatloaf; it is reminiscent¬†of my childhood for sure. I also think of¬†Wedding Crashers when Will Ferrell screams, “Ma! The meatloaf!” I am pretty sure I said the same thing because it was one of those cult favorites of my own mother. I am convinced that she makes the best! I am sure your mother is some stiff competition, too. ūüėČ

When I first moved out and lived on my own a while back, I wanted to learn how to make my grandmother’s meatballs and my mother’s meatloaf without them. So I asked for recipes…and man, they’re secretive. Once I uncovered the classified information, I was left to my own devices in terms of figuring out how much. Terms like “a bit,” ” a squirt,”, and “a little of that” gave me hardly any help. Luckily, I have an innate sense and a whole lot of dedication to bring you forth the never before disclosed, sworn to secrecy meatloaf. ūüôā

The meatloaf is super tasty, moist, and addictive. 

The mashed potatoes I make are delicious and easy. My two best friends for these ‘taters are my slow cooker and my stand mixer.

For everyone that knows me, I make complicated meals. I’ll spend hours to get something right. Shoot, I ground my own chuck this week with bacon and garlic. Cooking is my hobby and not just a necessity. However, time is of the essence, and this recipe is one of those quick meals that can be made that is impressive and elegant enough for one to be fooled into thinking it’s complex and time consuming.

Let’s get started!

First, worry about your potatoes. I use my slow cooker because it makes the potatoes tender, and I can prep them in less than five minutes. No boiling, no peeling (unless you hate skins, but I think they’re tasty and rustic looking), no waiting. If you have a slow cooker that goes to a “warm” setting automatically, that is best, especially if you are trying to do prep before you go to work. You need four hours on high in a slow cooker for these bad boys.

The meatloaf is prepped together in about three minutes and cooks in about 35 minutes. You add a little of this, and a little of that, and that’s it! ūüôā

Ingredients for Step One (Slow Cooker Step)

5-6 Russet potatoes (if you like them fluffy, or you may use Yukon Golds or red potatoes, but I recommend Russet)

2 cups of water (you may substitute chicken broth, but it’s not totally necessary)

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder (approximately a tablespoon of each in the slow cooker)

Ingredients for Step Two (Final Mixing Step)

1 cup of half and half, warmed in the microwave (you may substitute whole milk, but the more fat, the better!)

3/4 stick of butter (softened)

1 cup of sour cream

Green onions/chives for garnish (optional!)

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar

Directions for Mashed Potatoes

Slow Cooking Procedure

1.) Wash and scrub your potatoes. Leave the skin on (unless you don’t like it, in which you can peel them.) Slice the potatoes in half, then in half again, then cut into small 1 inch pieces.

2.) Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Put all diced potatoes into slow cooker. Throw salt, pepper, and garlic powder all over potatoes. Stir to spread seasoning evenly.

3.) Add 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of water to cover potatoes.

4.) Put your slow cooker on HIGH for four hours, until the potatoes are fork tender. If you are making this all day, try to use a slow cooker that has a warm setting so that it can switch to this setting after cooking.

Stand Mixer Procedure

1.) If you have a stand mixer, grab the mixing bowl that goes with your mixer and scoop out all the potatoes. Put the potatoes in the mixer bowl. Make sure the potatoes are fork tender before doing this step! Alternatively, if you have a hand mixer, you can mix the potatoes right in the slow cooker! ūüôā

2.) Microwave a cup of half and half (or milk of your choice) about 30-45 seconds until hot. Soften butter in microwave, in five second intervals, if not already softened.

3.) Throw the butter into the mixing bowl. Crack salt and pepper approximately four times for each seasoning. Being mixing on medium speed for about 20-30 seconds.

4.) Once the half and half is heated, slowly pour in the liquid so the potatoes absorb the liquid. Mix another 20-30 seconds and then stop. Potatoes will be creamy with a few lumps.¬†Do not overmix–potatoes can becoming gummy in texture!

5.) Take your mixing bowl out. Add sour cream, cheddar, and optional green onions/chives. Mix lightly. Keep warm in your slow cooker if not serving right away.

Feel free to add more cheddar on top! ūüôā

Ingredients for the Meatloaf 

1 1/2-2 pounds of Beef, Pork, and Veal Ground Meat**

**(I ground my own meat this time; if you have a food grinder and you feel ambitious, grind up 2 pounds of chuck, five slices of bacon, and five garlic cloves).

***You can also just use ground beef, if you so choose, but the mixture of pork and veal helps with moisture.

3 eggs (if you are making less,  say 1/2 pound to a 1 pound of meat, you can use 2 eggs)

1 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix

1/2 cup¬†of ketchup, plus a little more for the “glaze”

1/4 cup of Peter Luger Sauce ****

****–It’s so delicious, but if you can’t find it, here’s a copycat recipe.

Jar of Heinz Au Jus (Beef), or make brown gravy of your choice

1/2 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Freshly cracked salt and pepper, about three of each

Directions for Meatloaf

1.) Preheat your oven 350 degrees. Take out a baking pan of your choice and spray the inside with cooking spray. I recommend an 8 by 8 for 4 servings, or a 9 by 13 for 6-8 servings.

2.) In a large mixing bowl, hand mix (lightly) the ground meat, eggs, onion soup mix.

3.) Next, squirt in your ketchup, peter luger sauce, and a little of the au jus/brown gravy (about 1/4 of a cup or so). Do not overmix.

4.) Add the seasoned bread crumbs and continue to mix with your hands. The mixture should be moist, but it should be able to take hold of a shape. Add bread crumbs as needed, but this is very moist so do not add too much!

5.) Using your spoon, divide your meat into even portions (4-8, depending on how much you are making). Each mini meatloaf should be approximately a heavy fistful.

6.) On your baking pan, mold the portion of meat between your two hands, making sure it is in the shape of a loaf. Squeeze the side of the mini meatloaf with your hands on the outside and push it inward to mold it properly. Using a flat hand, push down the top of the loaf to make it flat and even. Mold as you feel fit.

7.) Make the rest of the mini meatloaves, giving at least an inch or two of space in between.

8.) Before putting the meatloaves in the oven, make the glaze. Mix about 3-4 squirts of ketchup, two-three tablespoons of brown sugar, and a dash of Peter Luger sauce. Mix together and place on top of the meatloaf. You may use a spoon for this step or you may use a little pastry brush.

9.) Put the mini meatloaves in the oven for approximately 35 minutes.

10.) Enjoy! Scoop out your delicious mashed potatoes and meatloaf on a dish. Garnish with more sliced green onions! ūüôā

 

 

 

 

Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia

foccacia-pic
I am still in love with paninis, and I don’t see that love wavering any time soon. I wanted to make the Chicken Frontega Panini with my own foccacia. As excited as I was for this to happen, my foccacia came out delicious, but too oily for my panini press. It squished all the ingredients out. To my Mother-In-Law’s advice, I dried out the bread in the¬†refrigerator for a day, and it was perfect! Although I could not use it right away because of it’s oil-content, it became a dream. Besides, I couldn’t stop eating it even without any sandwich fillings. It’s great alone, toasted with butter–dipping in sauces. The possibiities are endless.
Making foccacia isn’t difficult, but it doesn’t provide instant gratification as you need to wait for the yeast to work its magic. Save this for your day off–make it in the morning, and indulge¬†for lunch. This is very much worth the wait.
This is the perfect fall recipe; your house will spell like an herbal oasis. Enjoy!
*Although you can use any other pan, this recipe is tailored for a cast iron skillet. I also believe the cast iron skillet delivers in getting the right texture for a good focaccia. If you don’t have one already, invest! They’re very inexpensive and will last for life!*
INGREDIENTS
  • For the dough:
  • 2 ¬Ĺ teaspoons active dry yeast* (a package is fine)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ¬Ĺ teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons¬†chopped fresh rosemary (you can scale back to one tablespoon if you don’t love herb flavors)
  • 2 tablespoons¬†chopped fresh thyme¬†(you can scale back to one tablespoon if you don’t love herb flavors)
  • For the herb drizzle:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, or more to taste
  • ¬ľ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine milk and brown sugar. Warm in microwave for 1¬Ĺ minutes or until about 110-115ňöF. When you stick a finger into the mixture, it should feel hot, but not so hot that it’s uncomfortable. If it’s not warm enough, place back in microwave and cook at 15 second intervals till temperature is correct. If you’re new to yeast, I recommend using a thermometer. They’re very inexpensive. Once the liquid is the right temperature add yeast and stir. Let stand until foamy¬†about 5 minutes. Add two tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, mix the flour, salt, rosemary, and thyme.¬†Add the yeast mixture and mix until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Continue to mix with dough hook for 5 minutes. **If your dough is too wet from the oil, it’s okay!¬†Focaccia is very forgiving, so you can simply leave the wet dough to rise in the cast iron pan even if it’s not a ball. As long as the dough rises over time, you will get the right texture.**
  3. Move the dough to one side of the mixer bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil into empty side of bowl and then turn the dough until lightly greased. Cover the bowl with a  damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk (size), about 1 hour.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients for the herb drizzle in a small microwave-safe container. Cook on high for 30 seconds to release the herb oil and flavor. Set aside to cool.
  5. Preheat an oven to 425¬įF.
  6. Using your fingertips, press down firmly into the dough to make dimples about ¬Ĺ inch apart and 1 inch deep. Drizzle the herb oil evenly over the dough. Gently rub with your fingers to evenly distribute the oil. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and let sit for another 15 minutes. Feel free to add more spices/herbs directly on top as well like I did!
  7. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool in the cast iron skillet. Slide the focaccia onto wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with more fresh thyme and rosemary leaves, if desired.

Chipotle Chicken Panini with Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, and Red Onion

chipotle-chicken-panini-with-fresh-mozzarella-basil-and-red-onion

Happy Tuesday!

I am so embarrassed. I went an entire month without blogging. What’s even more embarrassing? I cooked plenty of food, and took plenty of pictures–I just haven’t had time to write about it…

Here’s the whole host of excuses…

1.) I moved.

2.) I got a new job.

3.) As of Saturday, I am now MARRIED. Yay!

I will try to stay on top of this–I promise. It was really hard for me to choose what to post as I have made infinite meals since the last time I posted, but this one is a definite winner and perfect work week meal.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but every now and again, I have a craving for Panera. I was inspired to re-create their Chicken Frontega Panini–and not only do I think I nailed the same flavor profile, but I think this actually tastes better.

Before I got married, I had a bridal shower, and man was I spoiled! I got all these kitchen gadgets, but my favorite of all is my panini press. I used to rough it out by using a grill pan and placing another cast iron skillet on top to get those grill marks, but it is never perfect. And if you’re one of those people who thinks a panini press is a glorified grilled cheese maker, I will seriously take an issue with you. Panini presses are much more industrial and have the finesse to seriously bring your sandwich game to a whole other level.

So Public Service Announcement: Get a panini press if you don’t have one already! I recommend a Cuisinart. My machine was not only used for pressing the bread, but it was also used to grill the chicken. Who wants copious amounts of dishes, especially during the week? Not this girl!

This powerful tool is my secret weapon for saving time and making an unforgettable sandwich.

When Zach and I ate this, we were lost for words. You will be equally speechless. Dinner in 15 minutes (including time to grill the chicken) has never been so good. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serving Four)

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce + 1 or 2 teaspoons¬†liquid from can

**Alternatively, you can buy Chipotle Mayo already made–I recommend “Just Mayo’s Chipoltle”–it’s fantastic!**

  • 1 loaf focaccia bread, cut into quarters or 4 focaccia buns ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† **Thicker bread is always great in a panini press, but here’s a little secret–I used just Maier’s Italian bread (nothing special), and this still came outstanding. I will certainly not discourage the garlicly, herb goodness of focaccia, but even if you just have plain white bread, you’ll be okay–promise.¬†
  • 2 chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), grilled on the panini press (first)
  • Four tablespoons of garlic powder
  • Two tablespoons of salt and pepper, divided
  • 8oz mozzarella ball, sliced (try to get it fresh in water!)
  • 1 plum tomato, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (ribbons) or leave leaves (how pun-y!) whole

Directions

1.) First, season your chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Plug in your panini press and get it really hot. Spray the panini press with cooking spray.

2.) Once the press is hot enough, grill the chicken in the press. Don’t push down all the way, but as the chicken cooks (about 6-8 minutes), gradually press to flatten the chicken.

3.) While the chicken is cooking, prep your toppings. Slice the tomato, red onion, mozzarella, and chiffonade the basil.

4.) If you are making chipotle mayo, add¬†mayonnaise, chipotle pepper, and adobo sauce to a mini food processor bowl then process until smooth. If you don’t feel like making a huge mess and don’t mind a chunkier sauce, hand¬†chop the pepper up very finely¬†then stir with sauce into mayonnaise. Taste and add more sauce to your liking.¬†If you don’t feel like making a sauce, then at this time get out your store bought, but delicious chipotle mayo.

5.) Take your chicken off the grill once there are substantial grill marks, and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Leave chicken aside to cool for a second. Once chicken has cooled a bit, slice chicken length wise into strips.

6.) Assemble! Smear about a tablespoon of chipotle mayo on each side of the bread. Next, add your chicken strips on top of each slide (go across evenly.) If desired, add more chipotle mayo on the chicken itself. Next, add the cheese slices (one-two slices of mozzarella for each side of the sandwich. Lastly, top the sandwich with sliced tomato, red onion, and basil. Press top layer of sandwich on top of the bottom layer.

7.) Spray your panini press once again. Also, spray your sandwich on both sides with cooking spray. As you did with the chicken, you should gradually press down on the sandwich and cook until golden brown. Cut diagonally for best appearance. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crab and Shrimp Gnocchi with Parmesan White Wine Cream Sauce

crabandshrimpgnocchi

Happy Sunday!

Each time I think of a gnocchi, my mind immediately takes me back to Venice in 2012. My friend Cassandra and I fell in love with the pillow soft potato pasta dumpling after eating these with this Gorgonzola cream sauce. This is a pasta that we will never forget. A pasta consistency I have been trying to master since I left that splendid city–but I don’t quite have it yet. If you have never had a gnocchi, you are missing out! It is truly the perfect blend of potato and flour. Although I am a believer of all things homemade, today’s dish simply requests that you use a package of gnocchi. Making gnocchi from scratch is a pain to master, and quite frankly, is more of a winter endeavor or one made for a rainy day. Pre-packaged gnocchi are even better than typical pasta–it cooks in 2-3 minutes!

Crab and shrimp take the flavor of this dish to new heights, especially as the sauce’s base is almost Alfredo-like with heavy cream and parmigiana cheese. ¬†Feel free to switch up the seafood–add lobster or clams if you like! Seafood and cheese go really well together! I know it seems taboo, but they’re awesome together.

I made a similar dish about a year and a half ago; coincidentally, the same company I had then I am having other today! If you are looking for the same flavor profile with more lemon and added texture (the other version I’ve made of this has Panko bread crumbs), read my old post; it’s called¬†Crab Meat Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere.

This meal is great for a quick, romantic night in or as a side dish for company. It’s intimate enough for two, and it’s elegant enough for entertaining. Bon appetit!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic (minced)
  • 1 jumbo shallot finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of white wine (I used pinot grigio)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 of a fresh lemon (should be about 1/3 cup of lemon juice)
  • 2 cups (approximately) of grated parmesan cheese
  • 15 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (do not buy precooked shrimp)
  • another 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces of lump crab meat (I used 16 ounces thinking I love lump crab meat, but this is pricey and almost too much crab meat for the amount of pasta!)
  • 1 pound of gnocchi
  • parsley for garnish (fresh or dried)

Instructions

  1. Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a boil.
  2. Insert pre-packaged gnocchi into boiling water. Cook about 2-3 minutes and stir. Gnocchi are done when they are floating on top.
  3. Drain gnocchi and pat dry with a paper towel. Keep aside.
  4. Use two tablespoons of butter to saute shrimp that are peeled and deveined. Add salt, pepper, and optional red pepper flakes to shrimp. Shrimp should be done in about 2-3 minutes (upon turning pink and no longer translucent–do not overcook!)
  5. Mince garlic and dice shallot.
  6. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and saute shallots for about 4-5 minutes at medium high heat. Stir to keep from burning. Add a bit of water if they are not sauteeing properly. Look for translucence in your shallots.
  7. Throw in the garlic after the shallots have been sauteed. Stir to keep garlic from burning. Cook garlic and shallots about 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
  8. To deglaze your pan, add 1 cup of white wine and stir shallots and garlic. Let it reduce a bit, and then had the other 1/2 cup.  Once it reduces about halfway, add heavy cream and lower your heat to low. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
  9. Next, get a mesh strainer and scoop out the shallots. Press the shallots into the mesh strainer to drain all the liquid. There should be almost no shallots left in the sauce. You may need to squeeze the liquid in a new pan.
  10. Kick your heat back to a medium high with the drained liquid. Add your parmesan cheese. Squeeze in half the lemon, carefully not getting seeds inside. Stir frequently You may add more cream if you need it.
  11. Lower the heat the low. Add the crab meat and cooked shrimp. Stir together and let heat through for about 5 minutes.¬†Tip: Make sure your crab meat is out of the refrigerator right before starting to cook so you don’t add cold crab meat to your hot pasta!

 

Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Blueberryzucchini

 

Happy Saturday!

I haven’t blogged again a while. Life has been changing so fast for me lately; I can barely keep up! Moving, new employment opportunities, and an upcoming wedding¬†is enough to stall my recipes. ¬†I just had my bachelorette party last night, and even though I am exhausted, I am not only making this cake, but I am also writing about it. If I can make this cake on only a few hours sleep, know that you can too. This is easy and delicious. Zucchini cake is perfect for summer baking as zucchini is plentiful and in season!

My future mother-in-law told me about this recipe. A woman from her church made this Blueberry Zucchini Cake, and she told me that it was a huge hit. I do believe in the power in numbers; that is, if you bring a dish or eat a dish at a potluck and almost everyone is coming back for seconds, that means that it’s a dish worth recreating yourself. She wanted the recipe, and the woman from her church gave it to her; here’s the original recipe.

If you love zucchini bread, you will love this cake. Zucchini has a lot of water, and thus, it makes for incredibly moist baked goods. I also think the inclusion of oil in this recipe also helps assure you that you’ll have a good bite. In addition, the amount of flour and eggs makes this cake dense, but I think it works well. Lemon and blueberry are always a great marriage; the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I was a little alarmed when I saw that there is four cups of powdered sugar for the icing, but it makes a firm icing that I think is necessary for the texture of the cake, and the sugar isn’t as overpowering as one may think.

Lastly, this zucchini cake made me remember why I love a food processor. My mother-in-law and I made this cake using the food processor for two purposes: 1.) to shred the zucchini quickly and evenly, and 2.) to whip up the lemon buttercream. If you do not have a food processor, go get one immediately. It’s a very underused kitchen tool that I think needs to be brought out more than once in a great while. It makes the prep work of cooking and baking such a breeze!

P.S If you make too much zucchini, freeze it in a ziplock bag. You could make my favorite zucchini fritters, too. They’re latka style and tasty!

Zucchini Cake

    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    • 2 1/4 cups sugar
    • 2 cups shredded zucchini (depending on the size of your zucchini, you will need 1-2 pieces of zucchini)
    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1 pint blueberries (tossed in 1 tsp flour so they don’t sink down into your cake!)
Lemon Buttercream
  • 1 cup butter, (2 sticks, 8 ounces) at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • juice of one lemon (buy two just in case you don’t have enough juice)

Directions

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan. Preferably, use a dark pan (but if you only have glass, it’s okay; just watch your edges!
  3. You will make your cake first; while your cake is cooling in the refrigerator, then you make your icing!
  4. Prep your ingredients. Cut a zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and discard. Slice your zucchini halves into smaller pieces to throw into your food processor. Use the shredding attachment until you get two cups. Do not drain the liquid.
  5. Once you have shredded your zucchini, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Fold in the zucchini.
  6. Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to combine. Slowly add it to the wet mixture, mixing just enough to blend. I add about 1/3 of the flour at a time, sometimes 1/4 of the flour. DO NOT OVERMIX! IT WILL BE CHEWY OTHERWISE!
  7. Fold in the blueberries, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, just until the top is turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it. Cool on a rack. You may need to cook the cake more
  8. To make the frosting, put the softened butter into the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy. Add the sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, processing till smooth after each addition. After the second cup of sugar, add in the lemon juice. Scrape down the sides of the machine as necessary. Adjust the texture by adding a little more lemon or a little more sugar depending on your taste.
  9. Frost the cooled cake and store in the refrigerator.
  10. Enjoy with company; it’s your new easy to make and eat potluck dessert. ūüôā

 

Bacardi Gold Spiked Peach Trifles

Bacardi Gold

Happy Saturday!

I love to cook; I like¬†to bake, but people–it’s summer. All the recipes should be easy, light, and fun. More time should be spent outdoors than in during this time of year. Today’s post will make sure that you are enjoying life instead of slave driving in the kitchen (although I have a lot of fun in here, usually!) This recipe is tasty, fun, and easy. It’s particularly a crowd pleaser because of the booze (I used Bacardi Gold Rum)–alcohol in desserts always piques people’s interest. Now if you need to sober up this recipe, not to worry–this tastes fine with lesser or no alcohol, too.

I made this trifle last week to complement my future Mother In Law’s grilled kebabs. Her friend made this really awesome bean and rice salad (yes, rice can be made into a salad–I will post that recipe eventually), and I figured I would make dessert. I wanted to utilize the peaches that she had on the counter, and my mind went immediately to the trifle. It’s so easy, and it’s great to make ahead! Store bought pound cake makes this recipe nice because you won’t need to turn on your oven, either!

For those of you who don’t know what a trifle is, essentially it’s a layered dessert that traditionally has alternates¬†sponge cake, fruit, and custard/pudding filling in a “trifle” (which is a large glass bowl that’s used for entertaining). I find that the trifle bowl does look lovely for presentation, but once you dig into it to scoop some out, it gets messy and ruins all the beauty you destroyed in preparing it. To me, I rather make the dessert more fun by making this into individual servings. Because mine have booze, I like to put these in martini glasses. Alternatively, you could use a smaller pudding cup as well. Any smaller glass can do!

For this trifle, I am using vanilla pudding, pound cake, and sweet, ripened peaches. They are perfectly paired for summer, and they take almost no time to prepare.

These peach trifles are not only easy to make, but they are easy to devour. As many of my readers know, I don’t always look for the simplest recipes to make. I always complicate things to make it gain just the slightest edge in flavor. I have made this trifle many times in many variations. When I feel like I need more of a challenge, I will substitute the pudding out and actually create a vanilla bean custard instead. But the truth…is in the pudding.

Yes, I used (gasp) pudding mix, and to make my crime worsened, I even used INSTANT PUDDING. You can get a soft set from instant pudding in about 5 minutes by simply whisking¬†whole milk and the pudding powder. When the pool or the ocean is calling my name, I rather not turn on the stove and waste an extra 20, 30 minutes. If you really feel guilty about not making “real pudding,” by all means, go traditionally here. Or go gourmet like I’ve done before and make a fine custard. Up to you, peaches. ūüôā

Lastly, I do believe in the authenticity of whipped cream being fresh. You do not prepare the whipped cream until you’re about to serve, but every thing else could made ahead. I usually make this about 4-5 hours before serving.

By the way, if you are drawn to this because of the alcohol, I would like to say that there is flexibility in which type of alcohol you use as well. When I made this recipe originally, I used Jim Bean (this is a southern inspired recipe that calls for bourbon). I personally think the rum is more summery, and it complements the peaches very well, but using bourbon is perfectly acceptable; that’s what I used last year! Rum and cake are always a great pairing, just ask the Caribbean natives! ūüôā

Grocery List

1 (3 1/2-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (or you can use the larger package if you plan on making more)
2 cups milk
6-8 large fresh peaches, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 (20-ounce) package pound cake
1/3 cup¬†gold rum (I used Bacardi)**–Again, if you want to leave the booze out, that’s perfectly fine!
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

 

Simple Directions (Recipe makes 6-8 individual servings)

1.) Prepare pudding mix according to package directions, using 2 cups milk. Cover and chill 5 minutes in the refrigerator.

2.) Peel the skin off your peaches. Once the peaches are peeled, slice them into a cubed dice. Discard the pit and skins.

3.) If your peaches aren’t particularly sweet, toss diced¬†peaches with granulated sugar (1-3 teaspoons, depending on sweetness of the peaches in their natural state.) Taste to make sure.

4.) Cut pound cake into cubes. Place half of cake cubes on bottom of a martini class; drizzle evenly with half of gold rum.

5.) Next, spoon half of peach mixture evenly over cake cubes. Spread half of pudding over peaches. Repeat with remaining cake cube, rum, peach mixture, and pudding. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

6.) Upon being ready to serve, beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over trifle; sprinkle with almonds. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Pork and Poblano Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers with Melted Jack Cheese

Pork and Poblano Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers with Melted Jack Cheese.jpg

Happy Saturday!

I am not making excuses, but I have not blogged in a while because I have been super overwhelmed with life. I’ve moved back to Pennsylvania from North Carolina; this consumed a lot of my free time. I also started teaching summer school and have been booked up with weddings galore! In fact, my best friend is getting married tomorrow, so I need to finish this post quickly so I can attend to her needs. I have to be ready on standby!

Speaking of celebration, I think the best foods to eat are hor d’oeuvres which to me simply means fancy finger food. There’s something to be said about food that requires no silverware or linen. These peppers are a great appetizer for a crowd mainly because of their size! If you have never worked with a mini bell pepper, I highly recommend it. They are colorful, fun, and they cook in no time at all. They have all the sweetness of your conventional bell pepper, but they are “fun-sized.” They are quite the party.

The flavor can be as intense or as relaxed as you want it to be, but if you like regular stuffed peppers, you know that spiciness is not necessarily a requirement. I use a poblano pepper and ground pork to stuff these peppers. I have also done a rendition of this recipe adding leftover saffron rice and some corn, so if you have any of these handy, by all means, add it! These peppers are small, so they can’t contain too much, but if you’re like me, you’ll do open heart surgery and make sure each pepper is maxed out in its capacity.

I will say that if you don’t have dainty fingers, you might find stuffing these peppers to be slightly tedious. A conventional stuffed pepper takes hardly no time to prepare because the pepper is about the size of a hand. Stuffing these little guys are a bit of an art form, but it’s worth it. This would be a fun recipe to make with a friend–divide and conquer!

I made these for a fourth of July party; I tamed the spices to a mild taste level so people wouldn’t have sweat more than they would already on a 90 degree day; however, if you like spicy food, go ahead and chop up a jalape√Īo¬†or a habanero alongside with the poblano to bring up the¬†heat. You could also add more spices to your taste level. Make sure you taste your filling before you put it in the pepper! Tasting is key.

I think what also makes these peppers very tasty is the fact they have a roasted flavor from being first sautéed in a bath of olive oil in a frying pan. Cooking the peppers first, not just throwing them in the oven, assures perfect tenderness and flavor development.

Let’s get this party started! These would be perfect for a Mexican themed party; I first made these for a Cinco de Mayo recipe, but these are perfectly suited for any summer celebration. ūüôā I doubled the recipe when I made this last to make about 50 peppers, but this is the scaled down version for a smaller gathering.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound assorted baby bell peppers (about 24)
1 small onion, diced
1 poblano chile pepper, seeded and diced (Remember–you can add a jalape√Īo or habanero to kick these up!)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder**
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder**
Kosher salt
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional–I personally am not a HUGE fan of cilantro, but it fits here)
3 ounces jack cheese, diced (about 3/4 cup)**(Feel free to use more cheese. That never hurts

**-(The ancho and chipotle powders¬†are very distinctive in flavor, but I will say they are optional if you don’t feel like running to the store–you can use regular chile powder, but these two have more authentic Mexican¬†profile)

Directions

1.) First, prep your ingredients. Dice your poblano (or other spicy peppers) and onion finely. Next, mince your garlic finely.

2.) Once your ingredients are prepped, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the baby bell peppers (whole) in a single layer and cook, turning, until the skins blister and start browning. Depending on your stovetop, it could take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan. Make sure you flip them and see a slight char. You should also towards the end be able to feel with a fork if they are soft and tender (not overly soft, but enough to bend and not be raw.)

3.) Once you’re¬†done cooking the peppers, use the same pan and add the onion and poblano. If you need more olive oil, add it before saut√©eing the onion and poblano. Make sure the onion is translucent before adding the garlic, cumin, oregano, ancho and chipotle chile powders and 1 teaspoon salt to the skillet. The whole mixture should be tender in a little under ten minutes.

4.) Next, raise the heat to medium high and add the pork. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the final mixture cool.
5.) While the mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

6.) Here’s the fun part: stuffing the peppers! Make a slit in each baby bell pepper with a knife, cutting from stem to tip. Once slit open, use your index finger to scoop out the few seeds that are in there and to carefully make a little room for the filling.

7.) Crumble the meat mixture into small bits, then stir in the cilantro. Stuff 2 to 3 teaspoons of the meat mixture into each pepper using your fingers or a small spoon; transfer to a baking sheet.

8.) Put a piece of jack cheese on top of each individual pepper. Cut each piece of cheese¬†so it fits inside the pepper(cubes work well or long strips). You may stuff the cheese so that it is tucked all inside, or you may just put the slice cheese right on top and have it melt all over if you’re in a rush.
9.) Bake until the peppers are hot and the cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Once the peppers come out, sprinkle kosher salt on the peppers (just a pinch.)

10.) Eat these peppers immediately. Have a margarita with salt on your rim to complement this fiesta

. ūüôā

Southern Style Crab Cake Melt with Cheddar, Remoulade, and Roasted Asparagus

SouthernCrabCake.jpg

Happy Tuesday!

I apologize for not posting; I’ve been overwhelmed between preparing to move, ending my school year, and so on. But no more excuses–I am here to stay!

I prepared this recipe yesterday to help my neighbor Jennifer with her “Surf and Turf” themed Memorial Day party. She was dead set on us making a ceviche, but I know that I am not one that likes to experiment on a large group of people. The little experience I have with ceviche tells me that I should 1.) get the freshest seafood ever and 2.) I need enough acid/time to marinate the fish. And so, I encouraged her to let me go with one of my favorite things to eat instead…crab!

I love crab cakes, crab legs with drawn butter, soft-shell crab, she-crab soup, or a crab gnocchi bake; Zach and I could devour Snow Crab, in particular, for days.¬†Crab has such a distinct sweetness and flavor that it is totally undeniable. Crab cakes are definitely a weakness of mine, but they’re often…mediocre. I’ve had them out and have been disappointed. They can be dry, loaded with fillers (and thus, very little crab), and quite frankly, unaffordable for the average person dining out.

It’s one of the more expensive items you can purchase in a restaurant, and it may be an item you are afraid to make yourself because..

1.) It’s costly–chicken, anyone?

2.) It’s seafood–frightening for some.

But trust me when I say it isn’t that scary at all! And while I agree it’s not the cheapest meal to make, it’s so worth it. For this recipe, I use good quality canned crab (Phillips’). Yes, you could use fresh crab. Sure, you can cook your own crab and pick them to pieces, but you’ll die of starvation by the time you’re finished. Good quality canned crab is appropriate for this dish!

You should make this if you’re a crab lover and/or you’re looking to impress. Even if you’re not entertaining a few guests, this recipe can be easily even made for a single person (yes, you read that right), so that you can make yourself a 15 minute meal that tastes divine.

Now I have a “holiday” crab cake recipe I make, and I also make a salmon cake that is similar to the recipe I am providing here. This crab cake melt, however, is less fuss. When you’re cooking for a crowd, you don’t want complicated. You want tasty and easy, and this is perfectly that.

From all my experiences making seafood cakes (I’ve made tons), the best base has…

1.) Creamy components (Mayo, Sour Cream, and/or Remoulade)

2.) Butter Crackers (Like Club or Ritz)

3.) Sautéed Diced Peppers and/or Onions

Sure, you can make a deep fried one with typical breading (Panko or Italian-Style), but I don’t think that does anything to actually accentuate the natural taste of the crab cake. I personally (and for this recipe) broil, not fry the crab cakes. The flavor is much more prominent, and I believe the crushed cracker breading approach creates the right texture.

Now what heightens this dish (without taking away the excellent seafood flavor) is the cheddar that is melted. This crab cake melt, as the name implies, involves smothering the crab cake in gooey cheese on top of a split English muffin. It’s amazing! The first time I had a Crab Cake Melt was in Downtown Wilmington, NC. Not only was it fantastic, but it was only $9.99 at an awesome place called Paddy’s Hollow.

For the price of two crab cakes at the aforementioned restaurant, you can serve a hearty appetizer for 12, so let’s get started! Again, this recipe can easily be scaled down to a romantic meal for two, so don’t feel the need to invite company over…

Because I doubt you’ll want to share. ūüôā

Ingredients for Side Dish: Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of fresh Asparagus
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Ingredients for Remoulade (Make first to add to your crab cake mixture!)

    • 3 cups mayonnaise (or sour cream!)
    • ¬Ĺ cup¬†Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
    • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I like Cholula!)
    • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend** (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup, plus more if needed
    • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
    • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
    • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
    • 2 tablespoons finely diced celery
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 tablespoon finely diced green onion tops
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Crab Cake for 2 (Multiply most ingredients by 6 to create 12!)

  • 2.5-3 ounces of lumped crab meat (canned)
  • 3 tablespoon of sour cream (or mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (Cholula or Sriracha¬†works for me!)
  • 1 tablespoon¬†Dijon mustard
  • 1/6th of a sleeve of Club Crackers, crushed finely (if you’re making for 12, use a whole sleeve)
  • 1 beaten egg** (for 12 servings, I only needed 2-3 large eggs to bind!)
  • 3 sliced and diced jarred roasted sweet bell peppers OR 3 sliced and diced sweet MINI bell peppers (you must saut√© beforehand) FINELY DICED
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of homemade Remoulade (P.S: If you don’t have time, you can buy this, too–but fresh is best!)

For serving…

  • 1 split English muffin (or 1 package of English muffins for company; I recommend Thomas’ English muffins)
  • 2 slices of Cheddar cheese

 

Directions for Side Dish: Roasted Asparagus

  1. Slice off woody ends of fresh asparagus.
  2. On a sheet pan, evenly spread out asparagus. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Once oven is preheated to 400 degrees, cook for 10 minutes. Do not cook it any longer than that! If you’re serving this for company, cook the asparagus last.

Remoulade Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise or sour cream. Whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire, hot sauce, seasoning blend, paprika, lemon juice, and horseradish. Add the ketchup and whisk together. Add more ketchup as needed to get the pink coloring necessary.
  2. Once the color is achieved, add in the garlic, capers, relish, celery, parsley, and green onion. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Crab Cakes Directions

  1. First, slice and dice your sweet bell peppers very finely. If your peppers are not jarred (in other words, fresh peppers), saut√© them in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire. Stir until soft and fragrant. Put aside to cool–do not add to mixture until cooled as you are adding them to eggs! You don’t want scrambled eggs, do you now? ūüôā
  2. Once the peppers are cooled (or if they’re jarred, simply diced), add them to a bowl. Next, add the canned crab, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, mayo/sour cream, beaten egg(s), and remoulade. Over the sink, pulverize your cracker sleeve finely. You may use a food processor if you don’t feel like smashing the crackers yourself. Tip: Use your index finger and thumb to break up large pieces! Once the crackers are crushed, add them to the mixture. Stir lightly to combine; don’t overmix! Make sure your mixture looks nice and moist. If it doesn’t look super moist, add a little bit more remoulade, sour cream, and Dijon mustard.
  3. Next, split your English muffins in half. Toast your English muffins about halfway.
  4. Once the English muffins are toasted, place sliced cheddar on the bottom of each English muffin half.
  5. On top of the cheddar, scoop out a generous amount of crab cake mixture ¬†that will eventually be distributed on each English muffin slice. You don’t have to shape it with your hands–simply plop on top.
  6. **Alternatively, you can place the cheddar on top of the crab cake depending on how particular you are about presentation! If the cheese slice is too large, you’re better off putting the cheese on the bottom.
  7. When ready to serve (and remember, these can be made ahead), broil for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Serve with remoulade on top!

 

 

 

Pan Seared Brown Butter Sea Scallops with Parmesan and Pea Risotto

Pan Seared Brown Butter Sea Scallops with Parmesan and Pea Risotto

Happy Tuesday!

I am exhausted. I admit it (I rarely do). I’ve been driving and flying all over the place lately. This weekend, I drove to Raleigh to fly¬†back home to Pennsylvania to host and attend my best friend’s bridal shower. I am a tired soul. On my late flight home last night, I was thinking about what I wanted to make for dinner the next day (and the rest of the week–I’m a foodie, after all). All I could think about was my succulent sea scallops I had in my freezer. But would I have the energy to prepare this vision? You better believe it!

This meal that I (selfishly) made only for myself today sounds romantic and date night appropriate. Seafood screams “expensive” and “restaurant” as well as “risotto.” And while I wouldn’t be objected to making this for my significant other, I want to stress that to make this delicious meal doesn’t warrant a special occasion. I made this dinner in about 25 minutes from prep to plate. I know that this doesn’t sound weeknight friendly, but believe me, it is.¬†This is quite the impressive feat.

Sea scallops, similar to crab, has a unique sweetness unlike other fish. Sea scallops are supreme to bay. Sea scallops are the larger of the two; to help you remember, think of the vastness of the sea. If a sea is huge, so is the sea scallop. Bays are just the “connection to the body of water”, so bay scallops aren’t as large as the latter. I¬†believe that size matters when it comes to scallops. Bay scallops are okay for dishes where they are not quite the star of a dish, but for this dinner, you need to invest in the sea scallops. Are they pricier? Yes, but you’re worth it. Besides, you can get a great deal on frozen scallops (and when they thaw, they are virtually the same as if they were fresh off the dock) every now and again. I paid about $13.00 for 1 1/2 pounds! Not a bad deal, if you ask me. Once you see them on sale, snag them and put them in your freezer for whenever you’re feeling inspired!

Now for the next layer of luxury: Risotto. Risotto is not just rice; if you haven’t had risotto, you’re in for a treat. Risotto is an Italian¬†preparation of¬†arborio rice. Risotto, if done properly, is rich and creamy without a lick of cream (could you imagine that?) The starches as they are¬†slowly released create a thickness to the rice. Risotto isn’t necessarily difficult to make, although it takes patience and careful attention. Please follow my directions carefully as I have seen risotto be destroyed by impatience by adding too little liquid, too much liquid, or not stirring enough. It’s about balance! I add grated parmesan at the end to add to the creaminess and nuttiness that is to complement the brown butter.

The scallops and risotto are paired beautifully¬†naturally, but they are enhanced with the brown butter. If you’ve never had browned butter, you are in for a treat. The nuttiness and depth comes out in butter when the butter itself is cooked. All you need to do is melt butter in a frying pan and wait for it to change to a medium brown. Some people like deeper brown butters, but be careful not to burn it! You can stir occasionally to see what’s happening.

Enough talking–let’s cook!

All The Fish In The Sea

Risotto

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1/2 diced yellow onion (very finely)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • ¬Ĺ cup white wine (I used Pinot¬†Grigio)
  • 3-4¬†cups of chicken broth ¬†(I would grab a 32 ounce carton–it’s better to have more than less!)
  • ¬Ĺ cup of frozen peas
  • ¬Ĺ cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste (preferably, freshly cracked)
Seared Scallops
  • 1 pound jumbo scallops (use leftover brown butter to sear scallops)**
  • salt and pepper to taste (preferably, freshly cracked)

**-If you are using frozen scallops, thaw them by placing them in a plastic bag and submerging them in cold water for a half an hour. You can do this as you’re making the risotto. The scallops only take 3 minutes to cook!

***-Whether your scallops are frozen or fresh, pat them dry with a paper towel (extra dry!) so there is no liquid. This is to ensure an excellent sear!

Brown Butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter

Directions for Risotto:

First, make your risotto. This takes the longest! Cut up your garlic and onion. ¬† In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and diced onion¬†and saute for a minute or two until soft and fragrant.¬†Add the arborio rice so it toasts a bit, but then stir to coat with butter and olive oil.¬†Add the white wine. Add the chicken broth, ¬Ĺ cup at a time, and simmer and stir¬†after each addition until the rice is soft and creamy. You must stir very frequently, but let it simmer every 30 seconds or so in order to adequately cook the rice!¬†Each time you add the 1/2 cup of broth, stir constantly so that the rice is absorbing the liquid. Once it seems like the¬†liquid is almost all¬†absorbed, add more (approximately 3 cups). Do not burn the rice!¬†This process of ladling¬†liquid into the risotto should take about 20 minutes. Taste the rice and make sure it’s soft and creamy. The starches should be released so that the mixture is thick without adding anything. Towards the end of cooking, add the frozen peas. Lastly, add the parmesan and stir until incorporated.¬†Crack salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for Brown Butter:

Put a few tablespoons of butter in a clean skillet over medium heat and stir it while watching it closely – when it starts to look golden and foamy, remove from heat, and place a bowl aside.

Directions for Scallops: 

With the leftover butter that is in the pan for the brown butter you should be able to cook the scallops. You do not want too much oil because that will get in the way of the sear on the scallop. If you have too little oil, the scallop will stick to the pan. There should be butter on the pan with brown/black solids from before. Before cooking the scallops, pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. Next,¬†sprinkle with the scallop with freshly cracked sea salt and pepper, and add to pan. They should sizzle. If you don’t hear a sizzle, pull it out and wait until it’s heated long enough. Shake gently to prevent sticking. After 2-3 minutes, flip each scallop over. They should have a pretty golden brown exterior and an opaque inside. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil.

All Together:

Scoop risotto into a bowl. Place approximately 4-6 scallops per person on top of the risotto. Drizzle the brown butter on top of the scallops as well as a little bit on the risotto. Enjoy!