Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Coconut Macarons w/Ganache

My intention was not to stop blogging for months...  how did it get to be December already?!?  I'm going forgo the excuses reasons and jump right back in with a cookie recipe I hope you'll enjoy.  As with most things, coconut is better with chocolate, and these macarons did not disappoint.

While you may not think of macarons as a traditional holiday cookie, I can't think of a day when I wouldn't want to eat one :)  And while they do require some time (they take me ~2hrs start to finish), one of the great things about macarons is that they are best made a day or two before you actually need them!

Coconut Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Annie's Eats & Chez Us
yield:  think I got about 70 using this template

There's no need to age egg whites when using this method, so once you have all your ingredients you can get to baking.

For the macaron shells:
106g almond flour
106g unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
212g powdered sugar
82 and 135g egg whites, divided
354g and a pinch of granulated sugar, divided
237g water

For the ganache:
200ml heavy cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2t cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350deg and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Combine the almond meal, coconut and powdered sugar in a large bowl and whisk together to blend well and break up any clumps.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the 82g of egg whites and blend into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, forming a thick paste.

Combine the 354g granulated sugar with the water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Keep a candy thermometer attached to the side and be watchful! We're heating up the syrup to 248deg, but when it hits 200deg, begin whipping the 135g egg whites with a pinch of granulated sugar in a mixer on medium low speed.  Continue whipping the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.  If soft peaks form before the syrup reaches 248deg, reduce the mixer speed to low to keep the egg whites moving.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat when it hits 248deg.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow drizzle until fully incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the meringue until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Add the meringue to the almond mixture in thirds, folding in each addition gently until smooth.  You may not use all of the meringue, so add it gradually.  The desired end-point is a smooth batter that runs in thick ribbons off your spatula. [Note: I made extra this time as the last time I tried a coconut batch they could've used a little extra meringue.]

Add the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with a 1/2" opening (or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off to a 1/2" opening).  Holding the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  I find a template slipped under the parchment works well for even piping, just be sure to remove the paper before putting it in the oven!  Small peaks that you may see immediately after piping should smooth out if the texture of the batter is correct.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325deg.  Bake for 9-12min, until the tops are smooth and set and feet have formed around the bottom.  Let the shells cool briefly on the baking sheet (~5min), and then peel them away from the parchment and place on a cooling rack.  They should come away easily and fully intact.  Repeat as needed with the remaining batter, replacing the parchment paper with each batch (I was feeling thrifty and used both sides) and bringing the oven temperature back up to 350deg before each batch.

While the macaron shells are cooling, prepare the dark chocolate ganache.  Add chopped chocolate into a bowl and set aside.  Pour cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Once the cream comes to a boil, pour over the top of the chocolate.  Let sit for a couple of minutes, then stir until the chocolate has fully melted.  Add cinnamon and stir well.  Let sit in the refrigerator ~1hr before using to fill macarons.

Once the shells are baked and cooled, match them up in pairs by size.  To one macaron shell, add a layer of ganache, then top with the paired shell.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  These get better with a little time in the fridge, so don't hesitate to make them a ahead of time.

What are you baking up this holiday season?  Or perhaps what treats are you looking forward to receiving?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pickled Apples

This month the Creative Cooking Crew was creating...  pickles!

Embracing the cooler weather, I tried something a little different and tried pickling apples.  Since cheese goes as well with apples as peanut butter, I made some cheddar cheese crisps to act as a 'chip' for a salsa made from tangy pickled apples, crunchy walnuts, and fresh parsley.

Perfect for an upscale football snack or fun party appetizer :)

Cheddar Crisps with Pickled Apples

For the apples:
1/2c + 2T water
8T rice vinegar
3/4t kosher salt
1-2t local honey
2 sm-med apples
1t coriander seeds
1/4t black peppercorns

For the cheddar crisps:
cheddar cheese (I used an aged goat cheddar), finely grated
few stems of parsley, chopped
1-2T chopped walnuts

Heat water, vinegar, salt and honey in a small pot until honey dissolves.  Take off the heat, cover and let steep while you prepare the apples.

Julienne the apples and stuff into a jar (my apples may have been a bit large and filled a 16 and 8oz ball jar).  Add coriander and pepper to the jar, and then pour the brine over the apples.  Refrigerate at least 1 day before using.

Set aside some of the pickled apples to drain while you prepare the cheddar crisps.  Preheat the oven to 325deg and line a cookie sheet or baking stone with parchment paper.  Using ~2T of cheese, form circles on the parchment paper about 1" apart.  Bake for 10-12 min, until slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Once the cheese crisps are completely cool, transfer to a serving plate and top with the drained pickled apples and a bit of the chopped parsley and walnuts.

I imagine the pickled apple/walnuts/parsley combo would also go well on top of some baked brie.  Or tuck some pickled apples into a grilled cheese with sharp cheddar and black forest ham!

Who else has ideas on how to use the rest of my pickled apples?

Check out Foodalogue next week for more inspiration to get your pickle on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Frosted Carrot Cake Bars

While my most recent cupcake adventure went quite smoothly, I did goof on one thing- way overestimating how much white chocolate whipped cream was needed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  It went perfectly well with fresh-picked strawberries (as I had at the time, but it would go well with any fruit), but that only got me so far.

Enter these white chocolate whipped cream-topped treats: Carrot cake meets portability meets white chocolate.  Definitely a good reason to whip up a batch of white chocolate whipped cream, in case you needed one ;)

Frosted Carrot Cake Bars
adapted from Cookie Swap via use real butter
yield: ~2 dozen

These are best made ahead, as the white chocolate whipped cream melts on the warm bars and firms up a bit after a stint in the fridge.

for the crust:
1 1/2c whole wheat pastry flour (or AP flour)
2T evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/2t salt
3/4c unsalted butter, softened and cut into T-size chunks

for the filling:
2 1/2T whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4t cinnamon
1t ground ginger
3/4t ground cloves
1/2t salt
1/4t baking soda
14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2T unpacked dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1t vanilla extract
1 1/2c carrots, finely grated
1c pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
3/4c golden raisins
1/2c unsweetened coconut

for the topping:
1 1/2-2c white chocolate whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350deg.  Line a 9x13 pan with foil, leaving 1" overhang around the edge of the pan.  Smooth out wrinkles and lightly coat with nonstick spray.

To make the crust, combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Add butter and pulse until the mixture just starts to form a ball (15-20sec).  Transfer to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom.  Prick dough with a fork, then bake for 20-25min, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.  Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30min.

In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt and baking soda) and set aside.  In a large bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla.  Whisk together until well combined.  Add the flour and whisk well, then stir in the remaining ingredients (carrots, pecans, raisins and coconut).  Pour the mixture over the crust and spread evenly.  Bake for 35-40min, or until the edges are caramel-brown.  Let cool on a wire rack.

While the bars are still slightly warm, add the whipped cream and spread evenly on the surface.  It will melt a bit, and that will aid in the spreading.  Once fully cool, transfer to the refrigerator overnight to allow the whipped cream to harden again.  If you need to serve these the same day you're baking, I would let the bars cool fully before adding any whipped cream.  Cut the bars and serve!

Monday, August 12, 2013

PMC 2013

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge.

Photo Source

When I first heard about the event from Rachel, it sounded like something I wanted to be a part of.  I didn't quite realize how incredible it would be until last weekend.

The PMC is the largest athletic fund-raiser in the country.  Since it was founded in 1980, the PMC has raised $375 million for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  100% of rider-raised funds go directly to the Jimmy Fund.  That's pretty impressive.

Photo Source

Some riders have photographs pinned to their jerseys.  Other have ribbons pinned to their jerseys.  I even saw a "Why I Ride" list of inspiration on the top tube of their bike.  Everyone's lives have been touched by cancer.  Riding in the PMC is our way of doing something about it.


There were spectators, cheering us on, thanking us.  Thanking us?  I thanked them!  The signs that said "I'm here because of you", or "15 years old, 8 year cancer survivor" really tug at the heart strings.  And then we got to Lakeville, where we were greeted by Pedal Partners, children who are being treated or have undergone advanced cancer treatment at Dana-Farber.  Talk about inspiring.

Photo Source

Wellesley to Bourne
To be honest, I was so overwhelmed with the event, that I almost want to say the terrain was unremarkable.  There were a few short climbs but nothing too intense.  I had some cheerleaders at several water stops that gave me something to look forward to and helped me appreciate the extent of what we were doing this weekend.

the gang at DR-lunch stop

You meet some amazing people doing an event like the PMC.  I was lucky enough to cover many miles of training and the PMC with a special group of 'turkeys'.  Their company helped the miles fly by, and they made sure Sunday was extra special for me by serenading me with a few renditions of Happy Birthday!  I did find myself on open road sometimes, and my thoughts immediately went to everyone I was riding for.

My mom.
Aunt Kathi and Aunt Carla.
Meghan's mom.
Mom & I
Joanne's dad.
Uncle Ted.
Jack and Kay.
Bob and David.
Aunt Ange and Tony.
Laura's dad.
Aunt Rose.
Ciocio Reggie.
Ciocio Mary.

Sunrise in Bourne (Day 2)

Bourne to Provincetown
As we left Bourne Sunday morning, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.  So gorgeous I had to stop for a picture!  The first part of the ride starts with some rollers.  Having friends waiting for me in Brewster helped get me through that first climb in Sandwich.  It gets easier for a stretch after that, with descents to match any ascents.  I found that pacelines were much more prevalent on day 2, and got more comfortable in them as the day went on.  At one point down Route 6 I was even leading a paceline!  Not sure how that happened, but I couldn't help but think I wanted to take a picture behind me :)

Check-ins along the way

As you get closer to the finish, you hit some more climbs in Truro that start to hurt.  My shoulder/neck started to give me some trouble here, but luckily enough the Welfleet water stop had a massage tent that helped ease some of my pain.  Nearing Provincetown, you have a chance to go to the "easy" way or the "fun" way to the finish line.  I chose to ride the dunes- the "fun" way, which included a few more hills and some great views.  Before I knew it I was rolling into the finish.


My Stats
Miles Ridden: 163ish
Pace: 17ish mph

PMC Stats
Total registered riders: 5,534
33% Female
20% First-year riders
Average Age: 45
Participating states: 38
Participating countries: 7
Volunteers: 3,000+

I can't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday!

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my ride, I could not have done it without you.  I have raised $5010 to date.  There's still time to contribute- click here, every dollar counts.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


This month, the Creative Cooking Crew's challenge was to "Stuff it."

With the end of the month looming (where did the summer go?), I whipped up a "stuff it"-inspired meal: burrata-stuffed watermelon with a cucumber-mint salad as well as lamb burgers stuffed with goat cheese and sour cherry jam!

The creamy and salty burrata was a delicious counterpart to the crisp, sweet watermelon.  Cucumbers provided a nice little crunch, and the mint and serrano peppers rounded out the flavors.  The meal continued with a play on flavors and textures.  The juicy spiced lamb burgers paired well with the creamy goat cheese and sweet and tangy sour cherry jam.

Burrata-Stuffed Watermelon with Cucumber-Mint Salad
Recipe by Shannon

Stuffing the watermelon made for a fun presentation, but next time I'd just slice the watermelon and add burrata on top, followed by the cucumber salad!  Also- I debated making the cucumber salad with basil and adding some balsamic vinegar, think this would be another good option.

1 watermelon
1 ball of burrata
1 small cucumber, diced
1 serrano, finely diced
1-2 sprigs of mint, leaves removed
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cut off the watermelon rind to form a rectangular shape larger than the ball of burrata.  Slice diagonally down the center of the rectangle to form two halves.  Cut out a hole on the inside of each half that will fit the burrata.  Place the burrata inside the watermelon halves to re-form the rectangle.  Mine stayed together pretty well, but you could always use a toothpick or two to hold it into place.

To prepare the salad, add the cucumber, serrano and chopped mint to a small bowl.  Add a bit of olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add salad to a large plate and place the burrata-stuffed watermelon on top.  Slice and serve.

Lamb Burgers Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Sour Cherry Jam
Recipe by Shannon
Yield: 3 burgers

These could also be prepared un-stuffed, as burgers with a goat cheese spread topped with sour cherry jam/compote.

1lb ground lamb (or grass-fed beef)
2-3t Penzey's lamb seasoning
1-2oz goat cheese
2-3t sour cherry jam (recipe to come)
for assembly: burger buns, lettuce (I used swiss chard), or greek yogurt

Add the meat to a bowl and season with lamb seasoning, salt and pepper.  Mix lightly, then divide into 6 equal portions.  Form into small patties, then top three of them with a chunk of goat cheese and bit of jam.  Top with the remaining three patties and purse together.

On a hot grill, cook the burgers for 3-4min/side on high heat.  I served these on small brioche buns with some swiss chard- but feel free to dress up as you see fit!

What's your favorite thing to stuff??  As always, thanks to Joan and Laz for hosting!  Be sure to check out the recap with many delicious stuffed dishes!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Broccoli Arugula Pesto

You know when you are at the grocery store and you buy lots of food with grand plans to cook it all?  And then one thing leads to another and you wind up not having time to cook it all before it goes bad?

Yeah, it happens.

Luckily so did this pesto.  An abundance of arugula got whipped up into this delicious pesto- which extended its life a bit and allowed me to use it as the base for a few more meals!  This is a trick I'll have to remember :)

Some of this pesto was used as a sauce for some homemade whole wheat pizza dough, and got topped with grilled veggies and fresh mozzerella.  The rest got turned into the pasta dish below- both were fantastic! Check out Nosh On.It for other clever ways to use this pesto!

Broccoli Arugula Pesto
inspired by My Darling Lemon Thyme
yield ~4c

Feel free to scale back, or adjust the ingredients based on what you have on hand.

3 heads broccoli, cut into florets
6T cooking water
3-4c arugula (I bet other greens would work well here too)
2 small cloves of garlic
1/4c shredded cheese (could try nutritional yeast if you want to keep it vegan)
1/2c pumpkin seeds (or other nut)
~1/4c extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and add broccoli.  Cook broccoli florets for 3-4 min.  Reserve ~1/2c cooking water and then plunge broccoli florets into a bowl of ice cold water.  Drain the broccoli and add to a blender or food processor.

Add cooking water, arugula, garlic, cheese and pumpkin seeds.  Blend, while drizzling in olive oil until you reach your desired consistency (I used about 1/4c).  Store in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze.

Broccoli Arugula Pesto Noodles with Shrimp and Goat Cheese
recipe by Shannon
Serves 4

1 pkg soba noodles (mine was 8.8oz)
1-1 1/2c broccoli arugula pesto
4oz goat cheese
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1lb uncooked frozen shrimp

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water, then add the soba noodles.  Cook pasta until al dente, adding in the frozen shrimp for the last 3 minutes of the cooking time.  My total cooking time was ~8min.  Reserve a bit of cooking water before you drain the pasta and shrimp.

[Whether or not you separate the shrimp from the pasta is completely up to you.  I did for picture and portioning purposes, but there's really no need.]

Add pasta back to the pot and add pesto and a few tablespoons of cooking water.  Mix until noodles are well coated, adding more cooking water if it looks dry.  Top noodles with goat cheese, tomatoes and shrimp.

Do you have a go-to use for food that's on it's last legs?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I can't believe it's already been a month since I got to watch some pretty special people get married!  I think it's about time that I shared their second cupcake flavor-- Red velvet!  [the red cake + white frosting + blue wrappers...  totally acceptable for 4th of July celebrations ;)]

Now, I didn't grow up eating red velvet cake, so I didn't have a go-to recipe nor a good idea of what it should taste like.  Everyone seems to have their version of (aka the best) red velvet cake, so I had to test a few six out.  All cupcakes were topped with the same frosting in different designs and handed out to several taste-testers.  Man, was this tough!!  Luckily the bride and groom both agreed on their favorite- so we had a winning recipe.

from L: Joy the Baker/Hummingbird Bakery, Cook's Country (recipe here), Throwdown,
Smitten Kitchen, Cake Maven Raven (recipe here), Pinch My Salt

The true scientist I am, I had one more experiment to run.  The hypothesis: I can use a natural food coloring found in beets to achieve the traditional red velvet color.  I'll spare you the photos and explanations (it involves chemistry), but I tried two different methods and the results were clear:  no.  Before I knew it, it was time to start baking. Ugly brown cupcakes were not going to do it, so red food coloring it was.

With Rebecca's help, things went pretty smoothly and everything turned out well- I even had 5 minutes to get dressed before the ceremony started!  Ok, so I cut it a little close.  It was all worth it- these red velvet cupcakes were quite a hit :)

Red Velvet Cake/Cupcakes
adapted from Cake Man Raven bakery
yield: 1 8" 3-layer cake or 24 cupcakes

2 1/2c cake flour (how to measure flour)
1 1/2c evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
1t baking soda
1T natural cocoa powder (I used Hershey's, do not use dutch-process)
1t sea salt
2 eggs
1 1/4c vegetable oil
1c buttermilk
1oz red food coloring
1t vanilla extract
1t white distilled vinegar

Preheat oven to 350deg.  Spray 3 8" cake pans with nonstick baking spray or line 2 cupcake tins with wrappers.

Add sugar and salt to a medium bowl.  Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into the bowl.  Whisk dry ingredients together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat remaining (wet) ingredients with the paddle attachment until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, ~2min.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans or use a large cookie scoop to evenly distribute between cupcakes. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean, 15-18min for the cupcakes or 25-30min for the cake.  Let cool 5 min, then remove cupcakes from the pans onto a cooling rack.  For the cake, invert onto a plate and then invert back onto the cooling rack.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Buttercream

1 1/2 sticks (12oz) butter, RT
1 1/2 pkgs (12oz) cream cheese, RT
1 1/2t vanilla extract
1.5lbs powdered/confectioners sugar
2 1/4t cinnamon

Whisk together powdered sugar and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and blend until combined.  Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth (start off slow to avoid getting sugar all over the kitchen, then speed up to incorporate well).

Can be made ahead and refrigerated, just bring to RT before using.

Which would win you over- red velvet or strawberry shortcake cupcakes??  I had to try both...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Think Pink!

This month's challenge for the Creative Cooking Crew was to create a dish with just one color.  It sounded easy at first...  so many foods, so many colors!  Days went by when all I could do was group foods by color, a cohesive dish remained elusive.

Finally inspiration hit as I stood in a field of strawberries.  Most were ear-marked for jam, but I managed to save a few to make this PINK dish!  I started with a brown sugar-rubbed steak, cooked medium-rare to retain its pink center.  As a play on the mashed potatoes and blue cheese that normally accompany a steak, I used a cauliflower-goat cheese mash that was tinted with a little bit of chopped roasted beets.  The dish was topped off with a salsa made from freshly picked strawberries and mint, and made for a pretty great meal!  Especially when paired with a Blueberry wine ;)

Brown Sugar Rub
slightly adapted from food52
enough for 3/4lb steak

1 1/2T dark brown sugar
1/8t kosher salt
1/8t ground cinnamon
1/4t garlic powder
1/16-1/8t chili powder
1/16t ground dry mustard
1/16t smoked paprika

Combine in a small bowl and stir until well combined.  Use this to rub into both sides of your steak.

Strawberry Mint Salsa
slightly adapted from We Are Not Martha
yield ~1c

1c chopped fresh strawberries
1/4c chopped scallions/spring onions
2T chopped mint
dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add ingredients to a small bowl and stir well to combine.  Set aside until ready to serve.

Cauliflower Mash

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2T butter
2oz goat cheese
1T chopped roasted beets (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Steam cauliflower until fork tender.

Transfer cooked florets to a large bowl (could also use a food processor) and add butter, goat cheese and beets.  Mash well, taste and season with salt and pepper.

Thanks again to Laz and Joan for hosting, be sure to check out more monochromatic inspiration here on Friday!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Thank you to everyone who supported Bloggers Bake for the PMC- bidding, tweeting, or otherwise spreading the word!  We raised over $550 for Pediatric Oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. 

June is pretty synonymous with strawberries (at least in my book).  When it came time to brainstorm flavors for a wedding I agreed to bake cake/cupcakes for, Strawberry Shortcake seemed like a no-brainer.  But in cupcake form?

Yes!!  The shortcakes came in the form of a vanilla bean biscuit, baked in a cupcake liner.  Fresh strawberries, bound with a little cornstarch-strawberry jell were the filling of the cupcakes.  And then the "frosting."

Oh, the frosting.  If you follow me on Facebook, you know this was a challenge.  I had my mind set on a white chocolate whipped cream- I had made it once and fell in love.  I kept trying to make a 'stabilized' version (with gelatin) only to have batch after batch fail.  I finally realized that I was whipping the heavy cream too long, waiting for the consistency of whipped egg whites.  This over-whipping caused the whipped cream to break down, resulting in a tasty mess.  Learn from my mistakes and don't do this!

When it came time to baking day (B day?), I still wasn't sure what I was going to use as a frosting.  A few 90degree days threw a wrinkle in my plans, but when I heard the venue was inside and air conditioned, I crossed my fingers and forged ahead- these cupcakes would be topped with white chocolate whipped cream!!

Success.  I used this to decorate instead of a pastry bag, fearing that the warmth from my hand would be too much for the whipped cream.  Thanks to Rebecca for this gadget, as well as her help with the baking.  We make a pretty stellar team if I do say so myself ;)

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
adapted from How Sweet It Is
yield ~16

3c all-purpose flour (how to measure flour)
1/4 evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
4t baking powder
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
1 large egg
1c milk
1 1/2T vanilla bean paste
Stawberry Filling, see below
White Chocolate Whipped Cream

Preheat oven to 425deg.  Prepare 2 cupcake pans with 16 liners.

Cut butter into ~1/2" chunks and place on a plate back in the fridge (or freezer if you're trying to do this on a 90deg day).

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and whisk well to combine.  Add butter to the dry ingredients and mix with a pastry blender or your hands until you've got coarse pebbles.  If it's hot- I'd recommend minimizing heat from your hands and use a pastry blender.  If the butter has gotten too warm through mixing, place the bowl in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before adding the wet ingredients.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine milk, egg and vanilla paste.  Mix well, ensuring that the vanilla paste is evenly distributed.  Pour wet ingredients into the flour/butter mixture and stir until just combined, the batter should look a little wet (try to avoid over-mixing).

Using a large cookie scoop, divide batter among cupcake liners.  Bake for 8-12min, until golden brown.  Let cool completely on a rack.

Once cool, use a cupcake corer or a knife to cut a whole in the center of the cupcake.  Fill with strawberry filling (easy to do using a pastry bag or ziploc with the end snipped off) and frost with white chocolate whipped cream.

Strawberry Filling
adapted from Baking Bites & Kathy Can Cook
Yield: enough for ~24 cupcakes

1lb fresh strawberries
4-6T evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are)
1T cornstarch
2 1/2T water
pinch salt
1/2t vanilla extract
1t fresh lemon juice

Wash and dry the strawberries, then remove the hulls.  Cut berries into a small dice and place in a medium bowl.

In a small pot, place 1/2c of the diced berries along with the sugar, cornstarch, water and salt.  Mash the strawberries with a potato masher or fork.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil.  Boil for 1min, then remove from heat.  Add vanilla and lemon juice and whisk well.  Fold the cooked berries into the remaining fresh berries.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before using to fill cupcakes.

Celebrate the first day of summer with some strawberry shortcake cupcakes-- you won't be sorry!!  Tune in next week to see what other flavor we baked up :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Virtual Bake Sale

This year, instead of pursuing my own triathlon goals, I decided to tackle a different sort of challenge.  In less than two months, I will be riding from Wellesley to Provincetown (163 miles) as part of the Pan-Mass Challenge (or PMC).

The PMC is a bike-a-thon started in 1980 that has donated over $375 million to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  I am riding for my mom, a breast cancer survivor, and my grandpa who has fought off colon, bladder and skin cancers.  I am riding for my uncle who struggles with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  It's about my aunts who have fought breast cancer.  It's about my friend's mom who suddenly passed away from ovarian cancer.  And it's about another friend's dad who lost his battle with metastatic liver cancer last year.

The list of family and friends who have been diagnosed with cancer unfortunately goes on.  However challenging this ride may be for me, it's all about riding for those who cannot, for those who are fighting cancer and those supporting them.

To help me meet my fundraising minimum, I am hosting a virtual bake sale today through Wednesday June 12.  Please consider supporting my PMC ride by making an online donation or bidding on a baked good.  It would also be amazing if you could spread the word about the bake sale- its success depends on plenty of buyers!

The baked goods up for auction look delicious and include some gluten-free and dairy-free treats, even sugar-free ones that would be perfect to fuel training rides.  There is also some of my award-winning tomato jam up for grabs, as well as a copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  So go on over and check it out.

Thank you so much for your support!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Avocado Lime Soup

Happy National Running Day!  The weather made for a pretty awesome run home after work, I hope you got out to celebrate too :)

I thought I'd share a soup that was inspired by a dinner at The Elephant Walk a year ago (yes, it has been sitting in my drafts folder for that long).  As I am not a fan of gazpacho, this is exactly the kind of light and refreshing soup that I'll crave when the temperatures start to rise.

Avocado Lime Soup
Recipe by Shannon
Serves 2

1 1/2c veggie broth
1/2c water
1/4-1/2c lime juice
dash cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper
1T agave nectar
1 avocado, diced
1/2c grape tomatoes, halved
2T-1/4c chopped white onion
chopped parsley or cilantro, to garnish (optional)

In a large container or blender, add broth, water, 1/4c lime juice, cumin, agave nectar, a dash of salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Combine well, taste, and adjust seasonings--  based on your preferences, you might want up to 1/4c more lime juice, a little more agave, or perhaps some salt if your broth isn't very salty. Chill for a few hours.

Divide the avocado, tomatoes and onion into two bowls, then top with chilled broth. Garnish with herbs, if desired, and enjoy!

If you're reading this, I could use your help!  I'm riding in the Pan Mass Challenge this year for my mom and other family members and friends who have had cancer.  To help raise money for pediatric oncology research, I'm organizing a virtual bake sale June 10-12.  If you would like to donate a baked good, please check it out and spread the word- I won't be able to do it without you!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Key Lime Tart

Nothing says summer like 90 degree days in the forecast!  But wait- wasn't it barely hitting 50 last weekend?  I'm so confused...

To spare any confusion, I made you this tart to get you in a summer frame of mind.  Light and ever-so-sweet, this was perfect topped with the strawberries starting to hit the market here.  I imagine it would also be stellar topped with fresh raspberries too!  Come to think of it, meyer lemon curd would also work fantastically well in the filling!

Key Lime Tart
crust adapted from Lottie & Doof
serves 8-10

For the crust:
1/2c finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 stick butter
1/4c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
3/4t vanilla
1/4t salt
1c whole wheat pastry flour (or whatever you have on hand)

For the filling:
1/2c whipping cream
1/2t vanilla
1/2c key lime curd (or meyer lemon curd)

For garnish:
fresh raspberries or strawberries
lime zest
white chocolate whipped cream

Preheat overn to 350deg.

Spread coconut on a small sheet pan and toast in the oven for ~5min, until golden.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool a bit.  While still warm, add sugar, vanilla, salt, flour and toasted coconut.  Stir together to form a dough, and then press into a 9" tart pan.  Bake for 15-20min, until browned.

For the filling, whip the cream until stiff peaks start to form.  Add vanilla and mix and low speed until incorporated.  Fold in lime curd.  Transfer to the tart shell and chill a few hours or overnight.

To finish, top with sliced strawberries or whole fresh raspberries.  Lime zest and white chocolate whipped cream can also be added if you're feeling fancy!

If you're reading this, I could use your help!  I'm riding in the Pan Mass Challenge this year for my mom and other family members and friends who have had cancer.  To help raise money for pediatric oncology research, I'm organizing a virtual bake sale June 10-12.  If you would like to donate a baked good, please check it out and spread the word- I won't be able to do it without you!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mashed Potato Pizza

Sometimes you have to taste something to believe it's a good thing.

Before I tried it, I kind of thought putting mashed potatoes on pizza was a bit of carb overkill.  But after tasting it while on a trip to New Haven, CT, I realized I might have to reconsider.  Sure, it's got some carbs.  But boy was it delicious!

The version I recreated at home has a thin, whole wheat crust, crispy turkey bacon, and just a little cheese to round things out.  Perfect when served alongside a nice green salad :)  It's all about balance!

Mashed Potato Pizza
inspired by BAR
yield:  2 thin crust pizzas

pizza dough  (for a quick, no-rise dough I used this recipe)
extra virgin olive oil
roasted garlic mashed potatoes, see below
1 pkg (8oz) Applegate Farms turkey bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped into pieces
4oz cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar and toscano)

Preheat oven to 450.  If you're using a pizza stone, put it in the oven to heat up as well.

If you've made the mashed potatoes ahead of time (suggested), heat them up until warmed through.  Have the remaining ingredients ready to go.  Roll out half of the dough.

Once the pizza stone and oven are preheated, remove stone and add rolled out dough.  Working quickly, brush with olive oil and top with a thin layer of roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Add ~1/2 the crispy bacon and cheese, then bake for 12-15 min, until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Repeat with remaining dough.  Slice and serve!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Yield:  enough for 3 pizzas, or 3-4c

1lb 12oz yukon gold potatoes
1 small head of roasted garlic
2T butter
1oz cream cheese

Dice potatoes evenly and put into a large pot.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until potatoes are pierced easily with a fork (time will depend on the size of your dice).  Drain and return to the pot.  Add roasted garlic cloves, butter, cream cheese and mash well.  Add buttermilk, a splash at a time, until you've reached your desired consistency- thin enough to be spreadable on a pizza, but still with some body.

If you haven't already heard...  I'm riding in the Pan Mass Challenge this year for my mom and other family members and friends who have had cancer.  To help raise money for pediatric oncology research, I'm organizing a virtual bake sale June 10-12.  If you would like to donate a baked good, please check it out- I won't be able to do it without your help!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Teff Porridge

At some point in the not-so-recent past, I picked up some teff from some natural grocery store, thinking either of its health benefits or of the tasty injera I had tried at an Ethiopian restaurant.  After a failed attempt at injera, this tiny grain sat around in my cupboard for years (yes, years).

At last its time had come, and lucky for me this recipe turned out much better than the one I had tried for injera.  I didn't expect a whole lot, but it was absolutely delicious and a great change from oats!  Two batches and I am out of teff, but I'm guessing I won't be for long ;)

Teff Porridge
adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2

3c water
1/2t kosher salt
1c whole grain teff
1/2t ground cinnamon
1/2t ground cardamom
1T unsalted butter
3T maple syrup

Bring water and salt to a boil over medium heat.  Pour in the remaining ingredients and stir well (you'll feel the teff trying to stick to the bottom of the pan).

Turn down the heat to meidum low and let the porridge simmer until it has thickened, stirring occasionally, ~10min.

Cook until the porridge has thickened and teff is tender without being mushy.  Remove from heat and top as desired.

Have you ever cooked with teff or teff flour?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Choc Almond Tartlets

Looking for a dessert to get you in the mood?  Perhaps you just like almonds, avocado, chocolate, figs and honey?  Either way this treat is for you!

Perhaps this would have better post for Valentine's day, but I'm a fan of celebrating in your own way and on your own time!  Full of good-for-you ingredients that also happen to be touted as aphrodisiacs, I'd say these are healthy enough for any day :)

Chocolate Almond Tartlets (raw)
Recipe by Shannon
yield:  12

I made these using a mini cheesecake pan, however if you don't have one you can make them without.  Simply divide the dough into twelve even balls, and then form a little pocket for the filling with your thumb.

For the crust:
1 1/2c raw almonds
2/3c chopped, pitted medjool dates
1/4t sea salt
1t vanilla
1T water

For the filling:
1 ripe avocado
2oz dark chocolate, melted (the darker the better, 70-85%)
1/4c almond butter
2T honey
pinch sea salt
2t vanilla
1/4t cinnamon
2T water

For assembly:
figs, thinly sliced

To prepare the crust, add almonds to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the almonds are ground and crumbly, but not too far (we don't want almond butter!).  Add in dates, salt, vanilla and water.  Pulse until well combined.  Divide evenly into the 12 openings of a cheesecake pan and press along bottoms and side of the pan to form a shell.

For the filling, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Fill date-nut shell with chocolate avocado pudding.  Remove the tartlets from the pan by pushing on the removable bottom.  Top the tartlets with a fig slice and a drizzle of honey.  These keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.

Have you tried chocolate avocado pudding or tried other creative ways to use it??

Friday, April 26, 2013

BLT {Blueberries, Leeks & Toscano}

This month the Creative Cooking Crew is at it again, this time working their magic on the BLT sandwich!  Our challenge: create a new sandwich around ingredients that start with the letters BLT but are not bacon, lettuce and tomato.

When I started brainstorming ideas, I used some Blueberry jam as my inspiration.  Of course, this wasn't just any blueberry jam, but a savory version, complete with balsamic vinegar and rosemary.  My sandwich quickly become a BLT grilled cheese...

B- blueberries (in the form of a savory blueberry jam with balsamic vinegar and rosemary)
L- leeks (sauteed in a little butter and lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper)
T- Tuscano (Tallegio or Triple Cream Brie were other top contenders)

The sweetness from the blueberry jam and sauteed Leeks were nicely balanced by  some sharp notes from Tuscano cheese.  This was one delicious sandwich!

Thanks again to Laz and Joan for hosting and be sure to check out the roundup on Lazaro Cooks next week!
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