Coconut Pecan Spread

Coconut seems to be one of those foods that people have a definite opinion on:  you either love it or hate it.  Janna and I both love it.  LOVE.  And what better way to enjoy coconut than combined with crunchy pecans, mixed into a messy, delicious batch of sweet custard and piled high onto a Dark Chocolate Cupcake? Okay, so maybe there are some other equally delicious ways to eat it, but it’s hard to beat that yummy combo!

This blog post just happened to coincide with my nephews birthday.  It’s a labor of love for me to make birthday cakes for the family whenever possible, and this time the request was for German chocolate cupcakes.  So, I baked 2 dozen Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, topped them with the spread and delivered them to the birthday boy, all the while snapping pictures, of course.

This spread is more than just a cupcake topping.  It’s pretty versatile and can be used as a filler or frosting for layer cakes, a topping for ice cream, a finishing touch for cinnamon rolls…the sky’s the limit!  However you do it, enjoy!
Picture3

Ingredients
:
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
10 oz sweetened flake coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
IMG_5507

IMG_5515

Directions:

In a large saucepan, whisk together the milk, egg yolk and vanilla until well blended.  IMG_5513Add sugar and butter and cook on medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly, about 10-12 minutes.  Resist the urge to turn up the heat to avoid scorching

Once thick, remove from heat and stir in the coconut and pecans until well combined.  Allow mixture to cool completely before using as a spread or filling.

Makes about 4 cups.
Picture1

Picture8

 

Advertisements

Joanie’s Favorite Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

I can honestly say that these are the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had.  No exaggeration.  I’m a big chocoholic and, in my opinion, the darker the better!  Sure there’s a time and a place for milk chocolate (and even white chocolate, though that’s not really chocolate) but dark chocolate takes the cake.  Or rather, MAKES the cake!

I came across this recipe from Life, Love & Sugar in the news feed of our Facebook page.  The chocolate cake was layered with a decadent pumpkin cheesecake and frosted with pumpkin icing.  The photos were so beautiful and enticing that I was more than happy to test it out for a friend.  While the original layer cake was delicious, the chocolate cake really stood out to me.  Since then, it has been my go-to for chocolate cake.

This recipe is rather quick and easy, and you don’t need a mixer.  So far, it has been absolutely fool proof.  The best part is, they are so rich and delightful that you really don’t even need icing…that’s just a bonus.  =)  However, if you do want something sweet to spread on top, try our Basic Buttercream or Coconut Pecan Spread.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark baking chocolate powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water water
2 tsp real vanilla extractIMG_5447

Directions:
Prepare your pans ahead of time.  Line cupcake pans, OR thoroughly grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.  You may consider adding parchment paper rounds to the bottom of the pan to ensure an easy release.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together thoroughly.
Dry Ingredients

Add eggs, buttermilk & oil and mix until combined and glossy.
IMG_5465

In a measuring cup, combine the boiling water and vanilla and add it to the chocolate mixture.  Give the batter a final stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.  The consistency will be a little runny, but, trust me, it’s perfect.
IMG_5477

Pour the batter into prepared pans.  For cupcakes, leave about 3/8 inch to the top of the liner to avoid ugly muffin tops.  =)
IMG_5481

For cupcakes: bake 25-30 minutes.  (My stone pan takes 30 minutes on the dot, every time.  Metal pans may need a little less time.)
For round cakes: bake for about 35-40 minutes.

You know your cake is done with you can insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out clean.  However, DON’T disturb the cake until the final minutes of baking.  You don’t want to cause it to collapse.  Collapsed cake is not pretty, I’ve seen it.
IMG_5485

Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to cooling racks and let them come to room temperature before you frost them.

Makes 24 cupcakes (25 if you’re lucky!) or one decadent, layered round cake.
Final 3

 

Gooey Marshmallow Treats

Picture11
Also known as Rice Krispies Treats, these simple squares are a fun finger food that will instantaneously transport you back to childhood.  Rice Krispies Treats were invented in 1939 by Malitta Jensen and Mildred Day at the Kellogg Company home economics department as a fund raiser for Camp Fire Girls. (source: Wikipedia)
And what’s not to love?  Crispy rice cereal is generously coated in fluffy sugary marshmallows so it’s bound to be delicious.  Best of all, they are fast, easy and inexpensive.  Yes, they are full of carbs, sugar and delicious full-fat butter.  But that’s what dessert is all about!  Indulge a little….

Ingredients:
16 oz mini marshmallows, divided
4 oz butter + some for greasing (Coconut oil can be used for a dairy-free treat.)
1/4 tsp salt
6 cups crisp rice cereal
OPTIONAL: 1 cup chocolate chips, mini chips, mini m&m’s, caramel chips, etc.

Directions:

Generously grease a 9×13 pan with butter.

In a large pot, melt butter on medium-low heat.  Stir in HALF the mini marshmallows and continue to stir until they are completely melted and form a gooey cream.

Add salt and stir.  Remove from heat immediately.

Pour cereal into the pot and fold it into the melted marshmallows until all cereal is thoroughly coated with marshmallow.
Picture12

Add the additional whole marshmallows and any optional chips that you want.  Quickly fold them into the cereal.  You don’t want this second addition of marshmallows to melt, it’s so delicious when you bite into a fluffy whole marshmallow!

Turn the mixture out into your buttered pan and press it flat with clean, buttered hands.  It’s delicious when it’s warm, but they will cut much more easily if you allow them to cool completely.  RC

*Tip: If you have leftover chips, consider melting them and drizzling over the top of the cut squares.  Yum!
Gooey Marshmallow Treats

Blackberry Mousse Cheesecake

Mini Final 3.jpg

Blackberries are synonymous with Fall in the Pacific Northwest.  Everywhere you go you can find fresh blackberries for sale, blackberry shakes and smoothies, blackberry desserts, jam & syrup…you name it!  I’m lucky enough to have access to TONS of wild blackberry bushes that are heavy with ripe, juicy berries.  I’ve been a little obsessive this season about making sure I’ve picked enough to last me through the winter, and my torn up hands are proof of that!  But, it’s well worth it to have a nice supply in the freezer.  Not only are they amazing in tons of recipes, but they also make flavorful (and pretty!) little ice cubes for your water.

This recipe is a spin off from my Key Lime Cheesecake recipe.  I used the same basic method with a few key ingredient swaps.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a dessert girl, but I could eat these all day!  It’s light and moussy with tons of blackberry flavor, not to mention the color!!  They’re pretty little things!

Keep in mind, the recipe as written includes the blackberry seeds.  If you are someone who is sensitive to those hard little seeds, just replace the 2 cups of blackberries with 1 cup of fresh, strained blackberry juice.  Also, you can prepare in two ways: traditional cheesecake in a spring-form pan, or, my favorite, cheesecake mini’s (as pictured above).

Happy Blackberry Season!!

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 package Graham Crackers (approx 1 ½ cups crushed)
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Blackberry Mousse:
2 cups fresh blackberries (or 1 cup fresh, strained blackberry juice for seedless texture)
¼ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
2 envelopes Knox gelatin
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional Blackberry Syrup:
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

To Prepare Crust: In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs.  Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture is the consistency of wet sand.  Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased spring-form pan.  (If you’re making individual cheesecakes in a cupcake pan, scroll to the bottom for further instructions.)   Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.Crust.jpg

To Prepare Blackberry Syrup:  In a small saucepan, mash blackberries.  Add lemon juice and cook on medium heat until they release their juices, 5-10 minutes.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer.  Return to pan, add the sugar and cook on medium for another 5 minutes or until liquid coats the back of a spoon.  Allow to cool completely.

To Prepare Blackberry Mousse:  Add blackberries to a medium saucepan and give them a quick squish with a fork.  Add water and Knox gelatin and allow to sit about 5 minutes until the gelatin begins to develop and the liquid thickens.Blackberries.jpg

Add eggs and sugar and whisk until eggs are well beaten into the mixture.  Turn your heat on medium and stir constantly while the mixture slowly comes to a boil.  Stirring is VERY important, you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs in your cheesecake!

Once the mixture has thickened remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Add the blackberry mixture and mix on medium speed until well combined, scraping the sides and bottom so that all of the cream cheese is incorporated.  Refrigerate until cool stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  When the blackberry mixture has cooled, fold in the whipped cream.  Whipped cream step.jpg

Pour the mousse into prepared crust and smooth it out with a knife or the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

To release from the pan, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan before opening the spring-form clip.  Remove the pan cuff.  Place a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, then flip it over onto a flat surface.  Gently insert a butter knife between the crust and the pan and the the cheesecake should easily release.

Before serving, drizzle with blackberry syrup.
Cheesecake Final 3.jpg

Variation:

To prepare cheesecake mini’s, fill cupcake pans with foil liners (recipe makes about 24).

Note: You cannot prepare mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once because the cheesecake mixture will firm up in the mixing bowl if left unpoured.  If you don’t have at least 24 cupcake spaces, you can purchase disposables at any dollar store or grocery store.

Distribute graham cracker mixture evenly into all foil liners, about 1 tablespoon each.  Press firmly into the bottom of each cup.  (Try using a clean spice bottle for this.)  Crust Mini.jpg

Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Once crust has cooled, fill with prepared blackberry mixture all the way to the top of the foil liner.  Refrigerate until cool and set, at least 2 hours.
Mini's.jpg

Top with blackberry sauce and fresh berries.  Indulge!
Mini Final.jpg

Orange Essence Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is one of the most abundant fall vegetables here in the US.  And zucchini bread is one of the most popular ways to use it up, especially when your garden produces an abundance of overgrown, deep green squash.  While I don’t have a garden (just a few tomato plants on my patio), one of my associates at work has generously shared this years zucchini crop.

Quick breads often seem more like cake than bread, and I’m ok with that.  Classic zucchini bread is so comforting and delicious!  However, I wanted my zucchini bread to really stand apart, so I started baking.  And baking.  And baking.  I don’t know how many loaves and muffins I’ve given away in my quest for the perfect bread, but it’s been a lot!  However, it has been well worth it because I really do believe that this is the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had.  It’s subtly sweet with just a hint of orange while still maintaining that classic zucchini bread flavor.  If you like to drizzle yours with a sweet glaze, I’ve included directions for a quick orange glaze that perfectly compliments it.  I hope it’s your new favorite!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 large orange
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts or unsalted pistachios (optional)

Orange Glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspooon orange zest

Makes about 2 full-sized loaves, 4 mini-loaves, or about 24 muffins.
Ingredients.jpg

Directions:

Prepare your loaf pan or muffin tins.  I highly recommend using parchment if you’re making loaves because, for some reason, this bread seems to stick to my stoneware EVERY time if I don’t.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off the orange being careful to get as little white pith as possible.  Toss the orange peel and the granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulverize until the peel is very finely minced into the sugar.  Set aside.Orange Sugar 1.jpg

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, brown sugar and orange sugar together.  Add sifted ingredients to the wet mixture and beat will.
Mix Logo.jpg

Stir in the zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40-60 for a loaf pan.
Bake approx 30 minutes for muffins.

Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or small tester into the middle.  When it comes out clean, it’s done!

Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes (not necessary for muffins using liners), then turn them out and let it cool completely.

To prepare optional glaze: whisk sugar, orange juice and zest in a bowl until smooth.  Drizzle over bread.

Enjoy!
Title 2.jpg

 

Key Lime Cheesecake

Final.jpg

Imagine a dessert that’s sweet, tart, silky, crunchy, rich and fluffy all at once.  Are you imagining Key Lime Cheesecake?  This sweet treat is one that will awaken all your senses…and is quite possibly my favorite dessert!  It’s so refreshing when it’s served ice cold on a hot day.  

Occasionally, I take orders for baked goods/desserts and this one is the one that’s most requested.  Don’t be intimidated by all the steps, it’s really quite simple!  You can even prepare the crust ahead of time or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can purchase prepared graham cracker crusts (this recipe fills 2!).  That being said, I highly recommend making your own crust with the addition of the unsweetened coconut.  The coconut really adds something special!  You can usually find it in the bulk section of the grocery store.  If not, ask!  Want to present your cheesecake in a more festive way?  Scroll to the bottom for a fun variation: cheesecake mini’s!

Go ahead, try this one!!  Your time and effort will be rewarded!  

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package Graham Crackers (about 1 ½ cups, crushed)
½ cup unsweetened coconut
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tbs butter, melted
½ tsp cinnamon
*If you choose not to use coconut, just increase your graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups.

Cheesecake
1 cup Nelly & Joe’s Key Lime Juice
¼ cup water
2 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
zest from 1 lime
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional: additional heavy whipping cream to decorate plus granulated sugar to taste.

Special Equipment: Springform PanIngredients w Logo.jpg

Method:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs, add in coconut and pulse until combined.  Crumbs w Logo.jpg

Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture clumps.
Crumbs 2 w Logo.jpg

Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased springform pan.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.
Pressed w Logo.jpg

In a 2 qt saucepan, combine lime juice, water and gelatin.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add sugar, eggs, and lime zest.  Lime Zest w Logo.jpg

Add Eggs w Logo.jpg

Whisk up the mixture until completely combined and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it just begins to bubble.  DO NOT allow it to boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined.Cream Cheese & Butter w Logo.jpg

Pour the hot lime mixture into the cream cheese mixture.  Beat with an electric mixture until thoroughly combined, approximately 2 minutes.

Refrigerate for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  You want the mixture to cool down, but not set up.

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  (DO NOT add sugar.)

Once lime mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream.  Make sure you combine it well, but some marbling is okay.

Pour mixture into the prepared crust, smooth out the top and refrigerate for several hours to allow cheesecake to firm up.
Set the Pie w Logo.jpg

Once cheesecake has set, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the edges.  Slowly release the clasp and press the cake up out of the pan.  You can remove the bottom piece of the pan by putting a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, putting a cutting board (or other flat surface) over the parchment, then flipping the whole cake over.  Insert a butter knife between the pan and crust and the crust should pop right off.  Place your serving platter on top of the crust and flip the cheesecake back over.  Carefully remove parchment from the top.

You can serve your cheesecake naked, or decorate with whipped cream.

Whip approximately 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  Add in sugar to taste, one tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness is reached.

Use the whipped cream in a piping bag or frosting gun to create all sorts of designs.  My favorite is the roses and stars (pictured), which is created by using a 2D star tip.  Decorate w Logo.jpg

Variation:
You can create cheesecake mini’s, which is my personal favorite way to prepare this dessert, and it’s a lot easier to serve.  Fill cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.

Note:  You cannot prepare the mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once.  If you don’t have at least 24 spaces in cupcake pans you can purchase disposables at any dollar store/grocery store.

Press about 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each.  I like to fill all the cups before pressing to ensure the mixture is spread evenly.  Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Fill each cupcake with the prepared lime mixture, you should have more than enough to fill each cupcake to the very top (any excess can be refrigerated and enjoyed without crust).  Refrigerate until cooled and set, at least 2 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Serve ice cold and enjoy!

Mini w Logo.jpg

Rustic Blue Cheese Apple Tart

Rustic Blue Cheese Apple Tart.jpg

I can’t recall the day I decided that I actually like blue cheese.  For years I considered it a disgusting, smelly hunk of mold, hardly classifiable as food.  Then one day, it was like someone flipped a switch and now, I crave the stuff!

This delicate recipe is a little twist on a blue cheese pizza that was prepared during a cheese class at my favorite local produce store, Chuck’s Produce.  Their resident “Cheese Whiz,” Andrew, allowed us to taste several varieties of blue cheese in various different ways.  One of the cheeses he sprinkled over his apple pizza and topped with agave syrup.  It was delicious!  For my version, I replaced the pizza dough with the lighter puff pastry, which I think lends itself better for a breakfast item, and used organic clover honey as the drizzle.

Aside from the incredible sweet & savory combination, you’ll love this recipe because it uses minimal, common ingredients and it is really quick and easy to prepare, while still being impressive in both flavor and presentation.

Are you a blue cheese lover?  If not, maybe this recipe will change your mind.  If you already love it, enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry
1-2 fresh apples, sliced (Honey Crisp or Pink Ladies taste great!)
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
Honey (enough to drizzle)

Ingredients.jpg

Directions:

Follow thawing directions on the puff pastry box.  Lay pastry sheet out flat on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for approx 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Pastry will puff up…a lot!  It’s okay, it,s puff pastry, that’s what it’s supposed to do!  Once golden, remove from oven.  Puff.jpg

Slice and core apples and arrange evenly on the cooked pastry.  Top with blue cheese crumbles and drizzle with honey.4 pix.jpg

Bake for about 15 minutes or until blue cheese is golden and apples are soft.

Serve warm.Picture2.jpg

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Close up.jpg

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and what better way to celebrate this Irish holiday than with some traditional Irish fare.  And you can’t get any more “traditional Irish” than Shepherd’s Pie.  Originally called “Cottage Pie” this hearty dish was a means to use up roasted meat of any kind.  The Shepherd part didn’t come into play until 1877, and is generally used when the meat is lamb (mutton).

However, I am not a fan of mutton, plus it’s super expensive, so I opted for a more economical, typically American choice: ground turkey.  Affordable, lean, and easy to find in any grocery store, ground turkey can be a great substitute in many recipes that call for ground lamb, wild game, or beef.  The mild flavor is like a blank canvas with so many possibilities to please your palate.  If you prefer to go the traditional route, you can use mutton or beef, or even a mixture of the two, in place of the turkey.

There are quite a few steps that take you back and forth so don’t forget to read the recipe through first!  There’s a lot going on, but all the steps are oh, so worth it!  I hope you enjoy my spin on this dish.  Enjoy!  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

Mashed Potatoes:
6-8 Medium potatoes, peeled
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1/2 cup full fat sour cream
Salt to taste

Pie Filling:
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen corn
5 Tbs butter, divided
1 Cup onion, diced
3 Celery stalks, chopped
3 Large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Tbs all purpose flour
2 Cups turkey or vegetable broth
4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp ground thyme
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen English peas
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Ingredients.jpg

Directions:

Peel and quarter potatoes.  Fill a large stock pot with water, add the potatoes and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once potatoes are tender, drain and set aside.

In a deep skillet or sauce pan, brown meat.  Remove the cooked meat from the pan and set aside.  Keep the pan and drippings for a later step.  (If you’re using ground beef or lamb, you may want to drain it, as these meats are much fattier than turkey.)

While the meat is browning, you should have time to caramelize the corn.  Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the corn to a skillet and cook on medium-high heat until you see it start to turn dark golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Caramelizing the corn brings out the sugar and adds a really yummy layer of flavor.  Adjust the heat accordingly if it starts to scorch, you don’t want burned corn ruining your yummy dinner!  Caramelized Corn.jpg

In the pan you browned the turkey in, add 2 Tbs of the butter and let it sizzle on med-high heat for about 1 minute.  Don’t let it burn.  Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the carrots and celery all at once, reduce heat to medium and let it all cook together for about 5 minutes.Trinity.jpg

Make a well in the middle of the veggie pan and add 2 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoon of flour and whisk together to form a roux.  When the roux is golden in color, slowly begin to add about 1/2 the turkey stock, whisking as you go.  Roux.jpg

Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the rest of the stock, the fresh rosemary sprigs (whole, you’ll fish them out later), the thyme, Worcestershire sauce, English peas and salt & pepper.  Let this all cook together on medium heat for about 10 minutes.Rosemary.jpg

Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Back to the potatoes: Add the butter, garlic powder, sour cream and salt to the potatoes and whip with a hand mixer on medium speed until just creamy.  Fill your piping bag/tool using a large star tip, if using, and set aside…you’re almost there.

Remove the spent rosemary sprigs from the vegetable filling.  Make sure you get all the woody stems, those are no fun to chomp down on!  Add the browned turkey and the caramelized corn to the vegetable filling.  Filling.jpg

Transfer mixture to an oven safe baking dish, making sure to leave about an inch of clearance from the top.  I used a 2 quart round dish.  This would also be really cute in individual-sized cast iron pans, but I don’t have those.  Yet.
Oven Safe.jpg

Pipe the potatoes onto the top of the filling.  If you don’t have a piping bag, smooth individual spoonfuls of potatoes onto the filling mixture, starting around the edges and working your way to the center.  Whether you’re using the piping or spooning method, make sure the potatoes create a good seal over the filling.
Pipe Potatoes.jpg

Potatoes.jpg

Into your 400 degree oven it goes, MAKE SURE to put a cookie sheet or piece of foil under it because it will most likely drip…mine does every time.  =)
In the Oven.jpg

Bake for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown.  If it’s bubbling around the edges but the potatoes aren’t the color you want, you can broil it for 1-2 minutes but watch it very, very, very carefully!

The insides will be scorching hot, so let it cool and set up for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Dish up and enjoy!  This one makes great leftovers too!
Finish 2 with Title.jpg

Southwest Enchiladas

Taco salad is a staple in my household.  We probably have it 3-4 times a month.  I cook and season the meat and make a bean salad, then it’s a free-for-all where we each get to build our own salad.  The only problem is we ALWAYS have leftover meat and beans and, even though we love it, we get kind of bored after the 2nd day of taco salad leftovers.  That in mind, I decided to work on a dish that would use all those leftovers and turn it into something new.  SUCCESS!  Those same savory southwestern spices carry over beautifully into this dish, but in the form of a hot, gooey, delicious enchilada.  And the best part is, they are so easy, even if you don’t have a bunch of leftovers to use up.  Prep takes about 20 minutes and baking is minimal since the filling is already hot.  We still love Taco Salad, but now we also look forward to “leftover” enchiladas.

This full recipe makes a about 18 enchiladas.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef or turkey, or pre-cooked shredded chicken*
2 Tbs taco season
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn**
3 green onions, chopped
¼ cup fresh diced tomato
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
3 +/- Tbs coconut or canola oil
18 +/- corn enchiladas
2 10 oz cans red enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mexican blend cheese

*If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, simply replace the meat with an additional can of beans or about 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.

**You can also use grilled sweet corn when it’s in season, which is what I prefer.  The grill adds so much flavor!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If using ground beef or turkey, brown meat in a skillet.

Add taco season and 1/4 cup water to meat and allow to simmer about 5 minutes.

To the skillet add beans, corn, tomatoes, 2 of the onions, cilantro, lime juice and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the mixture to heat through.

In a separate small frying pan, heat oil on medium-high heat.  Once it’s hot, fry the tortillas one-by-one, about 10 seconds on each side.  Drain on paper towels and allow tortillas to cool enough to handle.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan (or 2 8×8′s as I did) with a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce.

Spoon about ¼ cup of filling mixture into each tortilla plus a pinch of cheese.  Fold over filling and place enchiladas seam-side-down in the pan.

Top with remaining enchilada sauce.

Cover with remaining cheese and green onion.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and starts to brown.  

Pile on sour cream, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeno’s or whatever toppings your prefer.  Eat up!

America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread

I have been baking banana bread as far back as I can remember.  It was one of the first things I learned how to make by myself when I was a kid.  I remember pulling the steaming loaves out of the oven and being so proud of my creation!  They never lasted long, and to this day, banana bread is one of my favorite comfort foods.

This recipe is not the same recipe I used growing up.  It is a creation of America’s Test Kitchen and was introduced to me through a foodie friend at work who generously shared the banana bread she had made with the rest of the office.  Although I wasn’t fast enough to snag a piece out of her bread from the break room, she did provide me with the recipe.  After hearing the comments around the office, I knew I had to make it for myself. Seriously, this is the most banana-y banana bread I’ve ever had and it is so incredibly moist!  Don’t scoff at the little bit of extra work with the bananas because THAT is what makes it so incredible.  Just do it, you will be rewarded!

When selecting bananas, be sure to use those that are heavily speckled, or even black.  If you are one of those people who freezes bananas, this is YOUR recipe!! The darker the banana, the sweeter and more developed the banana taste will be.  A lot of grocery stores will even sell these “overripe” bananas at a deeply discounted price.  Yes, those mushy, black banana’s seem really gross, but trust me, you’ll be hoarding them in your freezer like they are gold once you’ve seen (and tasted) what they can do.

Ingredients:

1 ¾ Cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp table salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 Large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 tsp granulated sugar

**Note:  The photo below shows baking powder, which is NOT in the recipe…my mistake!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8 ½  by 4 ½ inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave safe bowl.  I used a round casserole dish with a lid.  You can use plastic wrap with a few cut steam vents to cover if you don’t have a lid, but personally I avoid putting plastic in the microwave.  

Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released most of their liquid, about 5 minutes.Transfer bananas to a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl and allow them to drain, turning the bananas occasionally for about 15 minutes.  You should end up with ½ – ¾ cup of liquid.  

Transfer liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about ¼ cup.  Liquid should be light caramel color and thick, almost as thick as syrup.  I stirred mine pretty vigorously and ended up with some bubbles, but you get the idea.

Remove from the heat and stir this reduced liquid back into your mashed bananas and mash everything together with a potato masher.  The original recipe says “mash until fairly smooth” but mine never made it to that point…it stayed semi-lumpy.  I’m sure whatever stage of lumpiness your bananas end up is just fine.

Whisk in melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.


Pour banana mixture into your flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not over stir. Some flour streaks are okay.  Gently fold in walnuts if you’re using them.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the surface.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, approx 55-75 minutes.  Cool bread in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

**Note:  I used a mini loaf pan and a muffin pan instead of the larger, single loaf pan.  I started checking them at 30 minutes.  The muffins were slightly drier than the loaf and I would probably turn the oven down a few degrees the next time.

***Variation:  I added ½ cup of flaked coconut to the muffins and they were SO good!

Slice loaf and serve slightly warm or room temperature.  Enjoy!