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!!
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