Friday, September 30, 2011

.black bean hummus.

are you looking for an easy go-to party platter or healthy item to have on hand? look no further! (do i sound like a high-energy infomercial?)

i combined two tastes i love into one inspired dish. black beans and hummus. out getting some appetizers with girlfriends a few weeks ago, we ordered a hummus trio and were all impressed with the black bean hummus.

from that moment, i decided i wanted to make one of my own and i wanted it to be tasty enough to serve proudly to friends.

on the ol' world wide web, i found quite a few black bean hummus recipes and narrowed it down to one i thought would be worthy of tweaking. i added and deleted ingredients i decided would be more tasty until i came up with the recipe at the bottom of the page.

when i make this black bean hummus again, i'll cut everything in half. i took it to a party and still had mounds left in a storage dish at home. the options of what to dip in this are numerous. from pita chips, to tortillas (maybe even fried) to veggies...hope you enjoy the smooth flavor of black beans with the charming characteristics of hummus.

black bean hummus
inspiried by epicurious

2 cans of black beans
3/4 cups tahini paste
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks of green onion
1 tbs paprika
2 tsp of fiesta seasoning (use any spanish spice you may have)
salt and pepper to taste

in a food processor, add all of your ingredients and puree until your desired consistency. for a really smooth texture, process on high for approximately 3 minutes.
taste for preference and add additional seasoning as needed.
sere room temperature or cold with pita points, tortilla chips or veggies. store in a refrigerator between uses.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

.strawberry milkshake.

if you're trying to eat healthier by incorporating more fruit into your diet, this just may be the dessert for you. actually, scratch that entire sentiment. while this treat is full of fruit, it is far from healthy.

however, it is delicious. so, if you're looking to incorporate more delicious into your diet, i've got an easy fix for you.

start with 1 1/2- 2 cups of chopped strawberries and sprinkle them with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. toss in a bowl and allow to sit for about ten minutes.

in your blender, add 1 cup of milk, a couple handful of ice and a couple tablespoons of heavy cream if you have it on hand.

toss in a teaspoon of vanilla along with 2 cups of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

then, add the strawberries and blend away. while blending, feel free to sing 'my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard' like i did. it'll make you smile.

serve in a chilled glass and enjoy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

.caramel cinnamon blondies.

sometimes i bake for a purpose and sometimes my purpose is to bake. when i ran across this recipe for cinnamon caramel blondies, i had no upcoming event to serve them at or a friend that was due for an edible gift. instead, i had a strong urge to make these blondies a part of my repertoire.

cinnamon is a lifelong friend of mine and sprinkling it with caramel seemed like a delectable combination.

i'd never made a blondie before, but i've done the dance with brownies. blondies take on the concept of the oh-so-popular brownie, but are just void of chocolate.

instead, they're packed with so many ingredients that i adore like brown sugar, vanilla and in this case- cinnamon.

as i mixed the ingredients together, an aroma of deep sugar filled the air in my kitchen and i anxiously awaited to see how the caramel would play with the other ingredients.

while most of the recipe was reasonably typical, i arrived at the part where caramels needed to be melted down. i'd say without a doubt that the most difficult part was unwrapping individual caramels and i even had to call in my eye guy for back up to get all those little guys unwrapped.

once they were in the pot and started melting, i added the heavy whipping cream and it looked beautiful. it took a lot of will power not to stick my finger into the pot and lick it clean.

probably the only thing that really stopped me from doing it was the fact that i would have burned my finger with singing hot caramel. otherwise, totally would have.

with the batter all mixed and the caramel ready to be drizzled upon it, i began layering the delicious components together in a baking dish.

as i swirled the last bit of batter on top of the caramel layer, i couldn't help but imagine how gooey these blondies could turn out to be. i imagined this totally being a giant mess, but hoped they'd be just right.

once the pan came bubbling out of the oven, i waited patiently for the dish to cool before i began cutting into it. even then, i could feel the gooeyness sticking to the knife. as i pulled a bar of blondie out of the pan for a taste test, it was obviously not going to be a very neat thing to eat.

but let me assure you...every gooey, stick to the fingers, messy bite is so worth it. these caramel cinnamon blondies are spectacular. i passed most of them out at work and they got rave reviews, messiness and all. if you're looking for something to spoil yourself with, try these out.

cinnamon caramel blondies
from The Baker Chick
yield: 24 blondies
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 14 oz bag of caramels unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. Beat, scraping the bowl, until thoroughly combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Give the dough a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure the flour is incorporated.
4. Spread half of the dough evenly into the pan (It is going to be a thick batter so you may need greased spatula to help with this).
5. Heat the caramels and cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat until thick and melted.
6. Pour the caramel sauce over the batter.
7. Distribute the remaining batter as evenly as possible over the caramel. (I found I needed to get my hands dirty for this. I grabbed pieces of dough and flattened it out over the caramel. Do the best you can! If there are areas that aren't totally covered it's OK. It makes it look swirly and fancy.)
8. Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

.macadamia nut pancakes.

you may (or may not) remember me talking about making pancakes from scratch out of necessity rather than desire here. once i learned how simple and even more tasty a homemade pancake mix is over the store bought variety, i was anxious to get the griddle going.
with quite a bit of macadamia nuts leftover from a gift, i decided to snazz up my pancakes by making them a little nuttier. macadamia nuttier to be exact.

my original recipe called for some sugar. pour. some. sugar. on. me. pardon my tangent.

this time, to sit sweetly with macadamia nuts, i decided to use brown sugar instead of white sugar. it was a nice trade-off.

follow the recipe i used last time, except for that one tweak, (or just use the new one down below) and then ladle the batter onto the griddle. once the batter is all circled up, drop in the amount of nuts you want in your pancakes.

i may have went a little overboard due to the fact that i was ecstatic to use them. either be ecstatic like me or a little more rational when you make some for yourself.

keep in mind, you can use any additions, types of nuts or goodies you desire. as i'm reliving this breakfast moment, i wish i'd added some white chocolate chips to some of the pancakes. there's always this weekend.


macadamia nut pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a dash of salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter
macadamia nuts

this recipe yields 8 pancakes. in a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. using a whisk, mix in the buttermilk, vanilla and egg until well combined and smooth. stir in the melted butter.
heat non-stick skillet or griddle over medium to medium high heat. using a 1/4 measuring cup, pour pancake batter onto hot griddle. if you are adding any extra flavors, place it in the batter after it is on the griddle. when pancake is golden brown, flip with a spatula to cook other side.

Friday, September 23, 2011

.beef stew for you.

in my home state of florida's september, jackets are gathering dust in hopeful closets. this is not the case in my new state of tennessee where on an early september day, windows in my home were open allowing the breeze to waft through as the crinkling sounds of reds, oranges and yellows fell from from the trees. the scents from my favorite candle embraced the air and with all this- i decided to make a stew.

i must really love my husband because when i ran across this stew recipe, it was filled with so much meatiness that i didn't even consider vegetarianizing it. instead, i made this dish just for him. if you want to make this for someone you love or for yourself or a combination of the two, here's what you do.

start by multitasking. begin browning your cubed beef. in a separate pot, heat your butter and then add in onion and garlic to soften it.

it should begin really turning a deeper brown and you'll know you're making progress when you get a scrumptious aroma coming from your big ol' pot. remove your beef from their pan once they're browned on all sides and set it to the side.

here's the not-so-secret ingredient of this beef this particular beer was one lucky little can left in our refrigerator from a certain friend. he's the only friend we have that drinks it. this one goes out to the little homey on the back burner.

after adding beef stock, worcestershire sauce, paprika, tomato paste, plus some salt and pepper, let the ingredients meld together over a little heat.

while the juices all simmer silently, chop up your beef into smaller, more stew friendly pieces. throw them in your pot. allow this to simmer for up to two hours. in my case, i used a crock pot at this point. in retrospect, i wish i hadn't. so, don't use a crock pot like i did and later regret it.

then, take your carrots and imagine what that color orange would look like on your fingernails if you're so inclined to fingernail painting. if you were me, you wouldn't have to imagine and you'd just look down at your fingernails. back to the carrots. chop them up into small rounds or chunks depending on how you prefer your stew. add these to what you've got stewing.

with small red potatoes, you are sure to be adding a hearty ingredient. quarter them or dice into sixths to be added to your mix.

with all the main characters on stage, in the pot, put a lid on it and let it do its thing for an additional 30 or so minutes. with the crock pot dilemma on my part, i had to allow for longer.

once everything is at your desired taste and tenderness, pour a heaping bowl of the stuff and serve it up with pride. just like i did. also, if you're anything like my vegetarian self, you'll be so tired of living in the kitchen that you'll make yourself a bowl of oriental ramen noodles and just enjoy the beautiful breeze outside.

beef stew
thanks to the pioneer woman
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 pounds Stew Meat
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 can Beer, 12 Ounce Can
4 cups Beef Stock (or 4 Cups Water + 4 Beef Bouillon Cubes)
2 cups Water (additional, If Needed)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon Sugar
4 whole Carrots, Washed, Unpeeled, And Roughly Sliced
4 whole New Potatoes, Quartered

Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat in two batches, setting aside on a plate when brown. Cut pieces in half. Set aside.
Add diced onions to the pot. Stir and cook for two or three minutes until softened, then add garlic for another minute. Pour in beer and beef stock, then add Worcestershire, tomato paste, paprika, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add beef back into the pot. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
*UPDATE: The liquid should cook down to a thicker state. If it gets too thick/reduces too much, add additional water as needed.
Add carrots and potatoes, then cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes. (If stew gets dry, just add a cup of hot water at a time to replenish the liquid.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

.waiting for fog.

creeping backwards out of my driveway the other morning, there was a fog that my headlights strained to pierce through. the sky was thick with the haze and i wondered how painful the drive to work would be for my eyes.

due to how early i get to work, i would have to wake up before five a.m. if i wanted to have a nice leisurely breakfast at home in the mornings. i choose to eat in the car and have the extra minutes to sleep.

on this particular morning, i was extra careful and almost felt like even my breakfast consumption could get in the way of my driving focus. it was that foggy. when i arrived in my classroom, the one upstairs window i have welcomes in the outside world that is still buried in blackness. this time, the blackness had a texture to it from the fogginess.

once the light of day began taking over the dark, the fog was stagnant and i could make out its crevices and crannies. eventually, as usual, the fog lifted and was washed anew by the natural clear invisibility of air. this rare foggy morning led me to think about the fogs we sometimes carry with us in life.

there are moments, some lasting only hours others lasting weeks, where it can seem as though our lives are encapsulated in a fog. thinking clearly during these times proves tricky as the denseness rests heavy on emotional shoulders and seeing what is around us takes more straining than usual. just as with a fog in nature, everything in the rest of the world keeps rotating as it always has.

much like with driving, there are certain measures you can take to help get through the fog. keep your beams on low- in life, this equates to not putting your emotions into high intensity because all that straining to get through the fog of life usually makes it that much harder to see clearly. i'm personally guilty of this sometimes. when i feel myself being taken over by anything foggy, i fight extra hard to get myself out of it. when i'm already in a distressed state, i am not sure that putting on my life's strongest beams does anything for my sense of clarity. instead, i am aiming to practice a calm, low beam approach to seeing my way through and waiting for the fog to lift. why fight what comes down on me? instead...wait for it to lift and travel cautiously through it.

regardless of the length of time, once that fog eventually does lift and we see with clarity again, there is nothing more focused than that moment. both in nature and in mind. most importantly, it will always lift. always.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

.peanut butter cupcakes + chocolate cream cheese frosting.

around came one of those weekday mornings that make you want to curse alarm clocks, traffic lights and paperwork. instead, you put on a coat of positivity, some high heels and walk through the hallways of work like it's just another day. you're trying. i was doing a lot of ho humming on the inside on a day just like this. with a sigh, i stepped into the workroom to put my lunch in the refrigerator when a friend of mine had something huge wrapped in bubble wrap that she presented to me. for meeee? what's the occasion?!

it was just because and just because i was having an awful morning it meant that much more to me. with all the sweets i bring in to work for my friends, she decided to treat me to an awesome cupcake carrying case. not only does it hold two dozen cupcakes, but it is shaped like a big cupcake itself. could you think of anything cuter? me either! i also assumed this was an appropriate excuse for me to bake some cupcakes so that i could try out my new carrier.

i knew just what i wanted to bake- peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting. after bringing them to work for all my friends and co-workers to taste, i've never received such rave reviews. i'm almost brazen enough to say this was my most well-received cupcake to date. may i brag? i'm going to anyway. they really were delicious. want to make some yourself? let me walk you through it.

first, make sure your butter is softened so that it will cream easily with your peanut butter. start whipping these two ingredients up with your stand-up mixer on medium speed. after the two butters are bonded better than the best of friends, add in the sugar and eggs. then, add the vanilla and give it another good whirl until all ingredients are well blended.

now, move on to your remaining dry ingredients. namely, the flour and baking powder. whisk them together in a separate bowl from your 2/3 cups of milk.

start pouring small measurements of your dry ingredients into your stand-up mixer bowl already filled with the other goodies. then, pause and add a little milk. continue back and forth like this, ending with dry ingredients until everything is swirling together in peanut buttery harmony.

remove the bowl from the mixer, add in your peanut butter morsels and stir with a spoon or spatula until each little morsel is tucked in a blanket of batter.

with a small ice cream scoop, fill your lined baking cups with the cupcake batter and send each one off with a well wish of tastiness if you know what's good for you.

as the cupcakes are baking for 15-20 minutes, be a productive person and clean some dishes, check your email, play with your dog, wash your hands again. after about 15 minutes, continued to check your cupcakes with a toothpick until it pulls out clean. overbaking will cause them to become drier than your mouth desires.

while baking the last batch of cupcakes, get to work making the piece de resistance- the chocolate cream cheese frosting.

this time, cream your butter with softened cream cheese. then, add the vanilla for a little pizazz. the way to make a traditional butter cream frosting is with a whole lotta confectionery sugar and this recipe calls for that as well. the only difference is, you've already got the cream cheese in this recipe so it won't take on the traditional fluffy texture. as my eye guy put it, it looks creamier.

add your sugar a little at a time, inserting bits of the cocoa powder as you go until it is the consistency you desire. if it is too thick for your liking, add a little milk and if it is too thin, add a little more confectionery sugar.

once all your cupcakes are out of the oven, wait patiently for them to completely cool. maybe do a little more dishes like me. then, frost your peanut butter cupcake delights with this decadent frosting and feel like you've died and gone to flavor heaven.

after making these little darlings, i packed them away in the giant plastic cupcake i now call my favorite carrier. they all had sweet dreams and woke up refreshed and ready to be eaten. yikes, maybe it was more like little sugary nightmares. for me and the others who enjoyed them...nothing but sweetness.

chocolate peanut butter cupcake sensations
makes about 30
adapted from
peanut butter cupcake ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cup sugar
4 whole eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cup peanut butter chips/morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter together. Add the sugar and eggs and beat on medium speed. Then, add the vanilla extract and cream until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Then, alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the ingredients in the mixer's bowl while keeping it on low. End with the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of the blended batter, fold in some peanut butter morsels.

With a small ice cream scoop, fill lined baking cups about 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes. Check with a tooth pick that pulls out dry to avoid over-baking. Let cool and then add the delicious frosting.

chocolate cheesecake frosting
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 blocks cream cheese (12 ounces), softened
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
6 cups confectionery sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons milk (if needed)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla. Then, begin alternately adding the confectionery sugar and cocoa powder, ending with the sugar.
Add milk only if needed.