May 16, 2012

Sea Salt and Honey Almond Butter

This was my first attempt at a homemade nut butter, and I'm hooked. This Sea Salt and Honey Almond Butter is much cheaper than a jar from the store. It's fun to make (if you're me or my son) and delicious. A hint of salt, a touch of sweet and delicious roasted almonds. The original recipe came from Naturally Ella.

Sea Salt and Honey Almond Butter
2 cups roasted almonds
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sea salt

If using non pre-roasted almonds, place almonds on a baking tray. Roast at 275ºF for 45 minutes. Almonds should have a nice roasted flavor to them. (I taste tested a few to make sure they were perfect ... I had a hard time stopping myself from eating them. I foresee roasted almonds in my future.) If using roasted almonds, skip this step.
Place almonds in a food processor and turn on. Almonds will go through different stages, but let the food processor run until the oil has released and almond butter has smoothed out (it will ball up right before this happens.) Turn off food processor, and transfer to a mason jar.
Stir in salt and honey. Cover with an airtight lid, and keep in the refrigerator.

Chocolate-Amaretto Cupcakes

I wasn't overly impressed by last week's cupcake, so I wanted something special to make up for the lackluster showing for my coworkers. I also wanted something appropriately festive for the week of my birthday. These Chocolate-Amaretto Cupcakes from Betty Crocker The Big Book of Cupcakes seemed to fit the bill.

The frosting is quite unique for these cupcakes because you actually make a roux (a thickened paste of flour and milk) that is mixed into the frosting. Odd, eh? However, it yields a smooth frosting that is still spreadable after some time chilling in the refrigerator. Although delicious, the frosting oozes after any time standing at room temperature, so keep it chilled until devouring.

The original recipe calls to top the cupcakes with chocolate syrup and coarsely chopped chocolate chips. I thought it would be more fun to make my own chocolate sauce. And you know what? It was. And more delicious because I got to lick the spoon.

 Here's the recipe with my minor adaptations.

Chocolate-Amaretto Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. amaretto
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chocolate sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 23 cupcake tins, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

Beat together oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour and milk, starting and ending with flour.

Fill cupcake liners approximately 2/3 full. Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until cupcakes are done. Cool in pans 5 minutes, and then cool completely on a wire rack.

While cupcakes are cooling, whisk together the milk and flour for the frosting over medium heat. Heat, stirring often, until mixture is thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool completely (about 1 hour).

To finish frosting, beat together butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in flour mixture until smooth. Beat in amaretto, and thicken with additional powdered sugar if needed to reach desired consistency. I found the frosting to be rather soft still, better suited to slathering than piping.

Slather (see?) frosting onto cupcakes. Top cupcakes with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated prior to serving. Makes 23 cupcakes.

May 10, 2012

Yeasted Rye Bread

St. Patrick's Day wouldn't be complete without corned beef and cabbage ... or at least Reuben sandwiches. My contribution to the Reubens for the planned festivities for St. Patty's Day is this Yeasted Rye Bread from Crust and Crumb.

Yeasted Rye Bread
1 cup bread flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tsp. yeast
1 cup room temperature water
2 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. malt powder or brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1/4 cup buttermilk

Combine all sponge ingredients together until well mixed. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature 4 hours. Ideally the sponge will rise and fall during this time, but it is OK to proceed even if the sponge does not fall.

In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients with the sponge. Using a dough hook, mix on low one minute to incorporate the ingredients and on medium speed for approximately 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy, neutral in temperature when you touch it and not sticky.

Place the dough in a clean greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Punch down dough, and shape into a loaf. Place in a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until nearly doubled, about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake the bread for 45 to 55 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack prior to slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

This is the first homemade bread I remember making, and the note I wrote back in 2007 reads "Best Bread Ever!" Although I've made many tasty breads since that time, this bread holds a special place in my culinary memory. I baked it again this week, and it is just as good as I remember. It's wonderful lightly toasted and spread with a touch of butter. This definitely is one of my favorite breads ever and one I'll knead by hand for memory's sake! The recipe comes from Breaking Bread with Father Dominic.

Honey Oatmeal Bread 
1 cup oats, uncooked
2 cups hot water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
5 1/2 cups white flour
Additional oats for coating

Pour the oats into a large bowl. Bring 2 cups water to a boil, and pour over the oats. Let stand at least 15 minutes until mixture is lukewarm.

Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup warm water, and stir to mix. Let stand 5 minutes to dissolve. Add yeast mixture to oats, and add honey, butter and salt. Mix well. Work in enough flour to handle the dough, but remember the dough will be very sticky. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 1 to 2 minutes. Cover, and let rest 10 minutes. Knead again until dough is elastic, adding flour as needed.

Place dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough, and divide into two equal pieces. Knead each piece gently to remove any air bubbles. Do not use any flour on the kneading surface, as you want the loaves to remain sticky. Form each piece into a round loaf, and roll in additional oats until completely covered. Place loaves on Silipat-lined baking sheets. Cover, and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake loaves about 45 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from baking sheets, and let cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

Blueberry Pancakes

I switched up our weekend pancake routine with these Cooking Light Blueberry Pancakes. They were uniquely delicious with the addition of the nutmeg. Lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar, no syrup is needed. These will be on my list to repeat.

Blueberry Pancakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup blueberries (recipe calls for fresh, but frozen worked just fine)

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together. In separate bowl, whisk together butter, lemon juice, vanilla and egg. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Stir in blueberries.

Pour about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto a hot griddle sprayed with nonstick spray. Cook until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully flip pancakes, and cook about 2 more minutes until done. Makes 4 servings.

Peanut Butter Eggs

I don't know how anyone can resist Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs around this time of year. I've been staring at them lustfully the last couple weeks, eagerly awaiting Easter and the end of my self-imposed chocolate ban. So, imagine my delight in finding a recipe to make my own on Brown Eyed Baker!

Since I created these prior to Easter, I cannot comment on how close to the original they taste. I'm guessing they'll be slightly better because I used a semi-sweet chocolate rather than the traditional milk chocolate. My husband said they are similar, very good but not quite the same as Reese's.

Peanut Butter Eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper; set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar over medium heat. Heat until completely melted and starting to bubble a little, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until completely combined with the peanut butter mixture after each addition. Set aside, and let cool to room temperature.

Using a medium cookie scoop or a heaping tablespoon, scoop out peanut butter mixture and shape into eggs. Place eggs on lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate to allow the peanut butter eggs to set, about 30 minutes.

Once the peanut butter eggs are set, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together in the microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted. One at a time, dip a peanut butter egg into the chocolate and, using a fork, flip it over so it is completely covered. Remove it from the bowl, letting any excess chocolate drip off. Return it to the baking sheet, and repeat with all of the peanut butter eggs. Sprinkle with decorations, if desired.

Return the chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs to the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set, about 30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to serve. Makes about 15 large eggs. (They are similar to the full size Reese's eggs, not the bite-size mini ones.)

Irish Brown Bread

I found this recipe for Irish Brown Bread on Brown Eyed Baker, and she adapted her version from David Lebovitz. This is a fairly simple bread to make, and it has a distinctly different flavor than traditional yeast breads.

Irish Brown Bread
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp. wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp. wheat bran
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tsp. molasses

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Whisk together the wheat flour and wheat bran in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the white flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the wheat flour mixture,  and whisk to combine. Add the butter pieces, and rub them into small pieces with the flour mixture using your fingers, until as small as possible. Stir in the buttermilk and molasses until the dough is uniformly damp. Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead gently, until the dough forms a smooth ball.

Use a sharp serrated knife to slice a cross deeply into the top of the bread, about 1-inch deep. Place the loaf on the hot baking sheet. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the loaf is firm on top and when you tap the bottom, feels hollow. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about one hour before serving.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Swirl Cupcakes

I lacked time and inspiration for my weekly work cupcake due to a death in the family, so I opted for this unfrosted cupcake from Betty Crocker the Big Book of Cupcakes. It seems like cheating to have a cupcake sans frosting, but that's the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Swirl Cupcakes
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 cupcake tins.

Beat together the sugar and cream cheese for the filling until smooth. Beat in egg until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips, and set aside.

Combine all cupcake ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds and then high for 3 minutes. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of batter. Divide the remaining batter evenly among cupcake liners, filling to about 1/3 full. Drop 1 Tbsp. filling into each cupcake, dividing evenly among cupcakes. Top with remaining reserved batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted between the center and edge of cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks, and store covered in the refrigerator. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Lemon Curd Ice Cream

As I was making this ice cream, I kept thinking that homemade ice cream sure is an awful lot of work. As soon as I dipped my finger spoon into the edges of the ice cream as it was freezing, though, I fell in love. I have never tasted ice cream like this in my life ... and I mean that in the best possible way.

This ice cream truly is creamy. The original vanilla recipe I modeled mine after from David Lebowitz suggested adding up to 3 more eggs for a richer ice cream. I have no idea why you would need anything richer or creamier than this.

One of the problems I've encountered with homemade ice cream in the past is that it freezes into a solid brick once I put it into the freezer for storage. It tastes fine, but there's something frustrating about chiseling away your ice cream. This ice cream retains its creaminess while stored in the freezer.

This is delicious on its own, but it's near perfection topped with freshly sliced strawberries. It will be featured in a cupcake in the future.

Lemon Curd Ice Cream
1 cup skim milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 batch of lemon curd

Heat the milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan until tiny bubbles form along the edges of the pan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, and then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat and infuse for one hour.

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart  bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl, and pour the cream into the bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk, then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the lemon curd during the last 3 to 5 minutes of churning. Makes about 1 quart of heavenly deliciousness.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

I had the opportunity to spend time with a friend last week, which enabled me to make this Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce. I tend to avoid jams while home alone with my 7-month-old son as they are extremely hot, sticky and messy. Another set of hands in the house, though, gave us the chance to catch up with each other while making this treat. An added bonus was this was her first time making jam and/or canning.

The reason I titled this post as "Sauce" rather than "Jam" is that our jam didn't quite set. We followed the recipe from Food in Jars, but I'm sure it was user error on my part. I'm not the biggest rhubarb fan, but the flavor on this is a nice combination of sweet strawberry contrasting with the tartness of rhubarb. We sampled the leftover sauce that didn't fit nicely into jars drizzled while still warm over lemon curd ice cream. My friend described it best, "There's so much going on inside your mouth, and none of it is bad."

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
2 cup chopped rhubarb
4 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 packet liquid pectin

Prepare jars and lids for canning prior to making the sauce. To make the sauce, stir the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a large non-reactive pan off the heat. Once the sugar has begun to dissolve, place pot on burner and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add the lemon juice and zest to the pot, and let it bubble gently for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. As the jam cooks, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash any large pieces of fruit. Add the pectin, stir to combine, and let cook for a few more minutes. Cook until sauce reaches desired consistency, testing using the plate method.

Remove jam from heat, and ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Tighten lids, and boil 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Remove from water bath, and cool completely. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 pints.

May 9, 2012

Barbari (Persian Sesame Bread)

This bread is light in texture, a good accompaniment to chili. My only issue with the bread was my sesame seeds did not stay in place, perhaps a lack of olive oil before sprinkling with the seeds.

Barbari (Persian Sesame Bread)
1 tsp. honey
1 1/4 cups water
2 tsp. dry yeast
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra to glaze
2 tsp. sesame seeds

Stir the honey into 2/3 cup warm water, and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.

In separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to draw enough of the flour into the dissolved yeast to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl, and let the sponge rise until frothy, about 20 minutes.

Pour half the remaining water and olive oil into the well. Mix in the remainder of the flour. Add reserved water, as needed, to form a firm, moist dough. Knead until smooth and shiny. Place dough into a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough, and let it rest 10 minutes.

Divide dough equally into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into a round, approximately 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425° F. Preheat 2 baking sheets lined with Silipats. Use your fingertips to gently make 9 dimpled indentations on the top of each dough. Brush liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Transfer doughs to preheated baking sheets, and bake 20 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding. Cool on wire racks. Makes 4 small loaves (or 4 enormous hamburger buns if you think like my husband's uncle).

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

These granola bars, which I found on Recipe Girl, seem to hold their shape much better than the other recipe I tried. They are still a fairly chewy granola bar with a bit of crunch on the edges. These don't mimic the flavor, though, of any commercial granola bar I've tried. I made a few adaptations to the recipe, which are shown in my version below.

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars
1 cup pitted prunes
1/3 cup dark maple syrup
1 Tbsp. sorghum molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups rolled oats, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped dried fruit
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Spray with nonstick spray.

In a  bowl, cover the prunes with hot water. Soak for 10 minutes. Drain, and place the prunes into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the syrup, molasses, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Process to form a thick paste, about 20 seconds. Add 2 cups of the oats, and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining oats, dried fruit, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

Using slightly dampened hands, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool the dish for 15 minutes at room temperature, then transfer to the freezer or refrigerator and chill until completely cooled. Remove the bars from the baking dish by pulling up on the parchment paper. Cut into 10 bars using a pizza cutter. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

May 7, 2012

Cheese Sauce

I found this recipe on Serious Eats for a nacho cheese sauce of sorts. I like that the recipe can be modified by stirring in green chilies or other seasonings at the end if desired. The sauce is mild enough to be enjoyed by all but can be kicked up a notch or ten. The best part of this is that it's not the processed version from the store.

I used my partial can of evaporated milk in the fridge to make these sauce for enchiladas. 

Cheese Sauce
8 oz. extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 tsp. hot sauce

Grate the cheese using a hand grater, and then combine the cheese with cornstarch to coat. Place cheese in a medium saucepan, and add 1 cup of evaporated milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until melted, bubbly and thickened. Mixture will be thin after the cheese melts but will thicken with stirring and additional heat. Thin to desired consistency with additional evaporated milk. Serve immediately. Makes about 2 cups of cheese sauce.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

I had a bit extra heavy cream, which meant I could try this recipe from Recipe Girl for Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. It's definitely loaded with peanut butter flavor. It's not quite as creamy as some other ice cream recipes, but it's still delicious.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate peanut butter cups

 In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add milk and mix on low until sugar is dissolved- a full two minutes. You don't want to be tasting crunches of sugar in your ice cream, so give it a chance to dissolve. Mix in heavy cream and vanilla, and beat until well combined and smooth. (Note: I misread the recipe and actually melted the peanut butter and sugar together on the stove, added the milk and heated until the sugar was incorporated and then removed from heat prior to adding the other ingredients. Oops. Turned out fine, though.)

Turn on your ice cream machine, pour the base in the freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. (Note: Mine took less than 15 minutes to freeze.) A couple of minutes before you're ready stop the mixing, add in the chopped peanut butter cups. The ice cream will be a soft-serve consistency. You can eat it right away or freeze to eat later. If you freeze it for later, it will be more ice-cream-scoopable. Let it sit out for a few minutes before you try to scoop it.

Homemade Peanut Butter Snickers Bars

My husband loves Snickers bars. I'm historically more of a Milky Way girl, but my tastes have expanded into my adult years. (I've basically learned to eat a wider variety of foods because it allows me to consume more sweets.) The marketing geniuses at Snickers have learned that everything, including Snickers, is better with peanut butter.

Now, using this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, you can make your own Snickers bars at home. The benefit is you can cut them into larger squares than the skimpy storebought ones. These bars taste quite similar to Snickers, although the nougat is softer in this version. Also, if left at room temperature too long, the caramel layer will ooze, which makes things a bit sticky.

These are a recipe I'd make again, especially because I'm intrigued by the idea of making the caramel and nougat layers first, freezing them and dipping cut bars into the chocolate for true Snickers bars. (That would keep the caramel from oozing, right?)

Homemade Peanut Butter Snickers Bars

Bottom Chocolate Layer:
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Nougat Layer:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
7 oz. marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Caramel Layer:
14 oz. caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup heavy cream
Top Chocolate Layer:
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line with wax paper, and then grease the parchment paper. Set aside.

Make the Bottom Chocolate Layer first. Melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave on 50% power until completely smooth and melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour into the prepared baking dish and, using a spatula, smooth into an even layer. Refrigerate until completely cool and hard, about 30 minutes.

To make the Nougat Layer, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and evaporated milk, stirring until dissolved, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat, and add the marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and vanilla extract, stirring until completely smooth. Fold in the peanuts, then pour over the bottom chocolate layer. Again, refrigerate until completely cool, about 30 minutes.

To make the Caramel Layer, combine the caramels and the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Once completely melted, cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the caramel over the nougat layer. Refrigerate until completely cool, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Top Chocolate Layer using the same method as the Bottom Chocolate Layer. Refrigerate until completely cool and set, 30 to 60 minutes.

Using the wax paper liner, remove the bars from the pan and cut into 32 pieces. Store in the refrigerator, but remove one hour prior to serving.

Kalamata Olive Bread with Oregano

This Cooking Light bread is wonderfully fragrant and delicious the same day it is baked. Unfortunately, it loses some of that wonderfulness after sitting a day or two. My leftovers are being converted into croutons today, which I'm sure will be quite tasty.

So, go ahead and make this savory bread. Just make a single batch, and plan to eat it or share with friends the same day.

Kalamata Olive Bread with Oregano
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
1 tsp. dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Heat olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute until onion is tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, butter and egg whites. Add to flour, and stir together until just moistened. Stir in olives and oregano.

Spread batter into an 8 x 4 pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, and then remove from pan to cool completely. Makes 12 servings.

Roasted Asparagus with Browned Butter

It's hard for me to deviate from the deliciousness and ease of simple roasted asparagus. However, this Cooking Light recipe had caught my eye. This is a nice twist for us with our asparagus, one worth repeating.

Roasted Asparagus with Browned Butter
1 lb. asparagus spears, trimmed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice (I used a bit of orange juice with regular lemon juice)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place asparagus in a roasting pan, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 8 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat, cooking until lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in juice.

Drizzle melted butter over asparagus, and toss well to coat. Sprinkle thyme and lemon zest over asparagus. Makes 4 servings.

May 2, 2012

Streusel Strawberry-Rhubarb Cupcakes

These cupcakes are the perfect spring treat. They're light and refreshing, sweet with just a hint of tartness from the rhubarb. This is my slightly adapted version of the original I found from the Betty Crocker The Big Book of Cupcakes.

Streusel Strawberry-Rhubarb Cupcakes
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
9 oz. strawberries
1/4 cup milk
2 3/4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 egg whites
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 drops red food coloring
1 cup finely chopped rhubarb
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. mashed strawberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 24 cupcake tins.

In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

Blend together the strawberries and the milk. This should make 1 1/4 cups of strawberry puree. (Add additional strawberries if needed to make 1 1/4 cups of puree.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In large mixing bowl, beat shortening 30 seconds. Add sugar, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 2 additional minutes on medium speed. Beat in egg whites, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract and food coloring.

Beat in flour and milk, alternating with portions of each, starting and ending with flour. Stir in rhubarb.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, filling to about 2/3 full.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool in pans 5 minutes, and then cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, chill mixing bowl. Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in mashed strawberries.

Frost cupcakes either using a large piping tip or spreading whipped cream on top of each cupcake. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. Makes 24 cupcakes.