Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Pecan Pie

Are you ready?

Are the gifts wrapped, the cookies baked, the halls decked? 

Me?  Nope.  I pretty prepared, I'll admit, thanks to a lot of online shopping (the result of our little ice storm a few weeks back) and a bit of proactive holiday decorating before the season kicked into full swing.  But no sweet treats have been made in my kitchen yet (I'm currently tackling about a thousand plus cookies every morning at the bakery so baking anything at home right now isn't exactly making it to the top of my to-do list), however, I fully intend to bring a few dozen on our upcoming Christmas vacation. 

But today I must share with you this pie.  I made it for Thanksgiving (ok, Nathan made it for Thanksgiving- I fetched ingredients and told him what to do.  I'm good at that.), but it would suit any holiday meal just fine.  It's essentially your classic pumpkin pie doused with a cranberry pecan crumble and it's a nice twist on the traditional version.  And it's easy as...pie, so you can tell someone else to make it. 

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Pecan Pie

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 slightly beaten eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 single pie crust

For the Cranberry Pecan Topping
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter
4 ounces fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup chopped pecans

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, zest, salt, and all of the spices (nutmeg through cardamom). In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, cream, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and lightly beat by hand until well combined. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie shell. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the brown sugar, flour, and salt, and butter to a small food processor and chop until it resembles a coarse mixture. Stir in the chopped cranberries and pecans.

Remove pie from the oven and sprinkle the cranberry mixture on top. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pie is set, topping is golden and bubbly, and the crust is golden. If the crust starts getting too brown, you can add strips of foil around the edges.  Cool on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.

Adapted from Beantown Baker.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick and Easy Small Batch Chunky Marinara

I'm getting a little stir crazy.

The ice has me stuck inside.  Which means I don't have to work (woo hoo!), but it also means no Target runs, no Christmas shopping, no lunch dates (boo hoo).  I've slept in, I've cleaned the shower, I've washed the linen, I've attempted to defrost my windshield, I've succumbed to the fact I'm not leaving the driveway.  I had grand plans for the weekend like knocking off all my gift shopping, a trip to California Pizza Kitchen, and a little stop in Ikea but nope, not gonna happen.

Nothing left to do but throw on my grandma sweater, light up the tree, step in the kitchen and make a little pot of marinara (and knead up some fresh bread, but that post is for another day).  I've made this sauce a few times before, usually when I've had a busy day and am in a hurry to serve dinner (which was not exactly the case on this lazy afternoon, but it also works well when you're limited to what you have on hand).  If you can chop up an onion and open a couple of cans you can make this sauce.  Then serve up a romantic pasta dinner to the one that loves you even when it's just the two of you trapped in the house with a couple of dogs, who will tolerate your random outbursts of Christmas carols, and kind of likes your grandma sweater. 

Quick and Easy Small Batch Chunky Marinara

Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 to 6 minutes until crisp-tender, stirring frequently.

Mix in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, salt, oregano, parsley, basil, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until flavors are blended, stirring frequently.

Adapted from AllRecipes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pecan Pie Brownies

Got leftovers?

Ok now I'll admit we actually did not have a pecan pie this thanksgiving (we opted for pumpkin and apple this year), but that didn't stop me from purchasing one on discount at the grocery store a few days later.  I dug in and had a slice that evening, but the next morning I chopped up half and tossed it in some brownie batter.  I use the term "chopped" loosely here.  Have you ever tried to chop up a nutty, crusty, gooey pecan pie?  Mutilate may be a better word.  It's gonna get messy people. 

Just rip that pie apart- cut with a knife, tear with your hands, throw it in the batter and let the mixer mash it up.  I even used a gasp! boxed brownie mix.  Cheater cheater pumpkin eater. 

It should be noted that the combo of chocolatey boxed mix plus sugary chunks of pecan pie results in one super sweet, uber gooey brownie.  (Nathan describes them as "too gooey".  I don't know even him anymore.  Ha!  More for me.)

Got milk?

Pecan Pie Brownies

Makes one 9x13-inch pan

1 18.2-ounce boxed brownie mix (or you can always do homemade!)
1 (8 or 9-inch) pecan pie, chopped

Prepare brownie batter according to package (or recipe!) instructions.  Fold in pecan pie pieces.  Spread mixture into lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Bake according to package directions or until center is just set.  Let cool before slicing. 

Adapted from Cookies and Cups.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Corn Chowder

This is by no means a sexy soup.

But it got cold so I made it and I ate it and I loved it so now I share it.  Yup it got real cold.  Cold enough to put me in the mood for a little pre-Christmas-in-Colorado boot shopping.  Too bad I spotted these and now I find myself daydreaming about owning them but I just can't justify the price when a) I live in Texas where b) there's no snow so I'd basically c) look like a fool.  No sexy mountain boots for me.

Once old man winter kicks in though, I make a lot of soup (and I wear a lot of sweatpants.  and I drink a lot of chai).  Usually my soup consists of whatever I've got lying around the house: a can of diced tomatoes, the remains of a green bell, a handful of onion, a dash of cumin, a pinch of salt.  I just pull stuff out of the fridge, off the spice rack, and bam!  soup du jour.  Then I eat my non-sexy soup in my non-sexy sweats while I browse sexy boots.            

Cheesy Chicken Corn Chowder

Serves 2

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Melt butter in medium-sized pot over medium-high heat on the stove.  Add onion and garlic and sprinkle with pepper; cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add corn and cook another minute.  Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat.  Stir in chicken broth and milk and bring to a simmer, cooking until slightly thickened.  Add chicken and cheese, stirring until cheese is melted and blended.  Add salt to taste, if necessary.  

Chelsea Original :) 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cinnamon Swirl Sweet Potato Bread

Counting down the days...

We're at t-minus 13 days to Thanksgiving and I don't think I've ever been more ready.  Ready for seeing family, making pie, eating pie.  And sleep.  And stuffing.

I think I literally have been counting down since November one (I was even tempted to go all kindergarten on myself and make a construction paper chain).  But now, with less than two weeks to go, the only thing that stands between me and a few days of turkey-filled R-and-R is, well, pie.  A lot of pie.  Not for me and not for you, but for all those folks who go the easy route and order their pies pre-mixed, poured, baked, and boxed.  (Sorry, however I have an inkling if you're reading a food blog you're probably the type of person who intends to make their own pies for the big meal.  Yup.)  One order alone next week consists of fifty pumpkin.  help. 

Lucky for me though, pumpkin is easy as...pie.  (take note, you bakery orderers!)  And while it's not my favorite dessert on turkey day (unless is involves chocolate), I do love me a good sweet potato pie which has a similar flavor and consistency but is oh, just oh-so-better.  But no, as many times as I've said pie in this post I did not make you a sweet potato pie, however I was itching to do something with this fall flavor and baked up a little loaf and doused it with cinnamon sugar.  Oh fall, how I love you and all your fall-y flavors.
Cinnamon Swirl Sweet Potato Bread

Makes one 9x5-inch loaf pan

1 (15-ounce) can sweet potatoes in syrup, drained (or one pound peeled, cooked, diced sweet potato)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon white vinegar + 1 cup milk, mixed and let sit for 5 minutes)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In small bowl, first combine 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Set aside.

Combine sweet potatoes, egg, vanilla, and sugars in large mixing bowl.  Mix on low speed and slowly add oil.  Add flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix until well blended, then slowly add buttermilk, mixing until combined. 

Pour half of the batter into lightly greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.  Sprinkle evenly with a little more than half of cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Pour the remaining batter on top and finish with the rest of the cinnamon-sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Chelsea Original :) 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mom's Classic Chili

Can last weekend be every weekend?

It would involve: kissing monkeys, fuzzy navels, bakery breakfasts, wooden play sets, lego duplos, picture-taking, gift-giving, hug-receiving.  Margaritas, cloudless skies, byowine, video-watching*, story-sharing, trip-planning.  Thus was the weekend of a very welcome (and very overdue) visit from four of the loveliest people I know: my two parents, my favorite older sis, and my adorable nephew, Ben.  It was a full house for roughly 48 hours (+1, thank you daylight savings!), and it was wonderful.

We went to the zoo, we built our own tacos, we feasted on Italian cuisine.  We discussed Thanksgiving 2013 (Tulsa here I come! ps I'm making pie), we discussed Christmas 2013 (Colorado, here we come! ps I'm making cookies). 

But before we did any of this, we ate chili.  My mom's chili.  But I made it.  She had given the recipe to me years ago, which I had chicken-scratched on a piece of notebook paper, and I finally took it out from my arsenal of soup recipes to make for the ones I love.  It was a hit (by everyone except Ben, who decided to feast on macaroni and apples- no hard feelings though.  That boy could ram his new bike into my car and then trek it through my newly planted pansies and I would still love him to bits and pieces) and paired nicely with my go-to cornbread- the perfect way to celebrate both the arrival of the beautiful fall weather, and the arrival of my beautiful family.

*{see video here}

Mom's Classic Chili

Serves 4-5 (serves a family)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chuck beef
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (28-ounce) can italian whole tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or as needed

Heat oil in heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add chuck and sauté until brown, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cloves, basil, oregano, and cumin.  Stir 2 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, crushing with back of spoon, tomato paste, and water. Simmer until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Adapted from my mom :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Italian Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers

You'd think I'd be prepared.

We're having guests tomorrow.  Well, technically, it's my family, which can hardly constitute as guests, but we're having people coming to stay with us in our home, sleep in our beds, eat our food, use our toilet.  I'm not complaining.  It's what guests do.  And I'm thrilled to share our space and our toilet paper with the ones I love.

Linens have been laundered, activities have been planned, a belated birthday gift has been wrapped. 

But I'm in a bit of a pickle.  They arrive tomorrow night and I'm stumped on dinner.  I've been thinking and overthinking about it all darn day.  You see, I've been making these stuffed bell peppers a lot for Nathan and me, and they're mighty delicious, but they're just not something I would serve to my family on the night of their Texas arrival.  They're more of a meat and potatoes kind of family (no, we're not farm people, but I actually had someone at work the other day tell me he could see me growing up on a farm.  Um no.  If you know me at all this is as far from my personality as you can get.  I don't do farms.  I don't do camping.  I don't do dirty, sweaty things.  I'm very much a girl).  But my parents like meals with a piece of meat (and a side of wine)- like a filet of steak or a breast of chicken.  That sort of thing.  And for some reason it's tearing me up inside.

Nathan wasn't much help when I phoned him in Austin this evening (yes, I'm greeting the trick-or-treaters solo tonight), and the fact that he is expected to mow the yard and clean up the unfinished bathroom upon his arrival tomorrow morning is really all I can ask of him.  Dinner is up to me.  And dinner I shall serve.

oh, and the best part of this little visit?  i'm gonna get to see this guy and this girl.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2

1/2 cup uncooked instant brown rice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 cup ground italian sausage crumbles (I use Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Sausage Crumbles)
1/8 cup grated parmesan
2 green bell peppers

Cook rice according to package directions.  Set aside.

Cut top off peppers 1/2 inch from the stem end and remove seeds (reserve and chop up the top of the pepper around the stem to add to the filling mixture).  Place standing up in baking dish (for two peppers I used a 9x5-inch loaf pan).  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and chopped bell pepper; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir often, until soft and translucent.  Add garlic, and cook for one minute.  Add oregano, fennel seeds, sausage, and rice.  Toss and cook until warmed through.  Divide mixture between each bell pepper, pressing down with the back of a spoon until full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan and cook for 10 minutes more, until cheese is melted.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cranberry Cornbread

Martha Stewart made a boo boo.

And I'm not talking about a scary ghost boo boo.  She made a remark that horrified bloggers everywhere. 

See for yourself {video at 1:40}.

Read for yourself {below}:

“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a ‘popularity‘. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.”


Now I have been a Martha fan for as long as I can remember (was I the only nerd who enjoyed watching Martha Stewart Living on summer mornings during my adolescence?), and I'll admit I'm no trained professional, nor is everyone going to love every one of my recipes (heck, there are plenty of recipes I post that Nathan doesn't like- this means I eat the whole pie).  No one is editing my [random] writing (editors would probably cry if they had to proofread my weekly blurbs) and I'm far from the domestic diva Martha is, but, unfortunately, that comment left a sour taste in my mouth. 

To me, blogging is a creative outlet.  I share whatever I want to whoever is interested and try new things in the kitchen just so I can indulge the handful of people who are actually reading this little corner of the internet that is mine.  It's fun, it steps me outside of my usual culinary comfort zone, and I'm definitely not in it for the money (I've probably made about 25 cents since the inception of Serves Two, and if I were more motivated to make it "big"- because you can make a big chunk of change if you put your heart and soul into a blog- I might just dabble in some advertising and whatnot), but I do it for me.  And for you, whoever is reading this. 

I get ideas from magazines, cookbooks, the internet, television, and two of my favorite sources for information: my brain and other blogs.  Blogs are real.  They're people just like you and me cooking in their own kitchen, taking pictures with their own cameras, sitting down at their own computer and sharing with the world wide web.  You don't get quite the same realness when you're flipping through Bon Appetit,...or Vogue

So today I give you Cranberry Cornbread.  A buttery crusted cornbread tossed with fresh and dried cranberries imparting both tartness and sweetness, then baked in a skillet.  The recipe just so happened to originally have come from Martha, but I found it on a blog.  And the cranberry addition?  It was my own idea.  And it's a good thing.

Cranberry Cornbread

Makes one (8-inch) skillet (double recipe for 10.25 or 12 inch skillet)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula or large wooden spoon, stir the batter together until completely combined.  Toss cranberries with 1 tablespoon cornmeal.  Fold into batter.
Put the butter in a 8-inch cast iron skillet and place the pan in the oven until the butter is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, swirl the butter around to coat the bottom and sides, then pour the batter into the pan. Smooth the top and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes. 

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.  Originally from Martha Stewart.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Basil Salt (diy)

It's rumored that couples tend to resemble one another.

They're usually close in age, have achieved the same level of education, are the same ethnicity, display the same level of attractiveness, etc.  And the longer they're together, the more alike they become (ps those who resemble one another the most report the happiest marriages).*

Nathan sprinkles salt on, well...everything.  Mac and cheese, tacos, sub sandwiches, pizza, you name it.  I sprinkle salt on warm tortilla chips, crispy french fries, scrambled eggs.  Nothing crazy. 

Until now.  I now put salt on my pizza.  This basil salt.  It's the new grated parmesan.  A simple mixture of coarsely ground kosher salt with a big punch of fresh basil blended in (basil is the only herb I grew this summer that escaped the wrath that is the Texas heat), it goes perfect on those frozen pizzas I've been so good about serving up for dinner lately.  And sprinkled on buttered, toasted french bread alongside [frozen] lasagna.    

I think we're soul mates.

Basil Salt

1/2 cup basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup coarse kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add basil leaves and salt.  Pulse until basil leaves are ground.  Spread mixture out evenly on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes until mixture is dry.  Break up any clumps that may have formed with your fingers.  If necessary, pulse mixture in food processor to achieve desired coarseness (or to a fine powder, if you choose).  Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from The Little Epicurean.
*Happier at Home.  (highly recommended read)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

It's high time I made you a pie.

But this is not your ordinary pumpkin pie (thank goodness because, if I'm being honest...and I'm going to be...I don't really like pumpkin pie).  I'm in the pecan pie camp.  And after last year, I'm in the apple pie camp as well.  But this pie here might just make me a pumpkin pie convert.

After last years pumpkin kiss cookies (one of my most popular posts, per readers) and the triple chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin pie frosting (one of my most popular posts, per me), I decided to kick pumpkin pie up a notch with the addition of chocolate. 

Melted morsels get mixed into the classic pie filling, which then gets poured into a chocolate oreo crust.  I opted for pre-made because I'm lazy, which isn't news to you considering I wrote one measly blog post during the entire month of September.  I'm ashamed.  I'm sorry.  So I made you a pie.

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 can (15-ounce) solid-pack pumpkin
1 can (12-ounce) evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 prepared Oreo pie crust (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Melt chocolate and butter in large sauce pan over medium-low heat stirring constantly until melted (stir constantly to prevent burning the chocolate!).  Once blended, turn off stove and stir in pumpkin.  Whisk in milk, sugar, and eggs.  Add cornstarch, vanilla, salt, and spices.  Whisk until combined.  Pour mixture into prepared pie crust (I had extra filling).  Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes until center is set but still jiggly.  Let cool before slicing and serving.  Store leftovers in fridge.

Adapted from Closet Cooking.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Barbecue Chicken Salad

Changes are taking place...

so that means you eat the same things.

Like pizza, and burgers, and frozen lasagna, and...chicken salad. 

I had absolutely no intention on sharing yet another chicken salad recipe with you at least until summer 2014, but then this happened and I simply couldn't resist.  I threw this together on a whim one day (several weeks ago, actually.  I've been MIA, if you haven't noticed.  Like I said though, there are some changes taking place in our lives- more on that at a later time, but no, I'm not bearing child) and it was love at first bite.  But we're kind of barbecue freaks in this house.  It's sweet and spicy and tangy and perfectly acceptable this labor day weekend.  And a heckuvalot more up my alley than smoking a brisket.


sorry, keeping it short today folks!  hopefully i'll be back in the blogging swing of things soon!

Barbecue Chicken Salad

1 large chicken breast, cooked and chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (I used Head Country Hot for a little kick!)

Combine chicken celery, onion, and corn.  Sprinkle with italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and toss.  Add in mayo and barbecue sauce; toss to coat.  Refrigerate for one hour or until ready to eat.

Chelsea Original :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lemon Cake with Coconut Marshmallow Frosting and Toasted Coconut

So I'm sure you've figured that I have feelings for you now.

I’m talking to you, Lemon Cake.

And five years ago I said these words to Nathan and we finally became a couple. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

He is absolutely hilarious (today I endured a brief dance breakout at Lowe’s and some very enthusiastic singing in the car), incredibly thoughtful (he’s the guy to thank for my beloved stand mixer and chi flat iron, as well as the occasional “because-I-love-you” donut, and I'll never forget that perfect proposal), does a mean worm (and has a scar on his chin to prove it), is the most adorable sleeper (we’re talking arms stretched behind his head as if he’s posing for a Levi’s ad), and has a pretty face to look at (yea, he’s a stud). It’s kind of hard to put into words how much I love this guy.

So in honor of five years with the man of my dreams, I made us a celebratory cake. Bursting with lemon, topped with a coconut marshmallow frosting and flaked, toasted coconut, it’s just a little gesture to say I love you, Nathan.

And thanks for letting me change my facebook status.

Lemon Cake with Coconut Marshmallow Frosting and Toasted Coconut

Makes one (9-inch) springform pan

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
the zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (this was 3 lemons for me)
3 tablespoons milk

Marshmallow Frosting
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut, toasted if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a round 9-inch cake pan (mine was springform) with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together sifted flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add in cooled butter and vanilla extract, whisking until combined. Stir in all of the lemon zest. Add half of the flour mixture, stirring well, then add in the lemon juice and milk. Stir in remaining dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Pour into the greased 9-inch pan and use a spatula to even out the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cake is set and springs back when touched. Remove and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heat-proof bowl, preferably the bowl of your electric stand mixer. Place over top of a double-boiler that contains simmering water, and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are slightly warm. Immediately remove the bowl and place it on your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beating slow at first and gradually increasing the speed to high. Beat for 6-7 minutes until glossy and thick, then beat in coconut extract for another minute until combined. Frost cake as desired, then top with coconut!

Adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake: Mission Complete

This is it baby.

It took one year, seven rounds, fifty+ Official Cupcake Explorers who at long last found one chocolate winner.

Let’s start at the beginning. Last June I was chosen to participate in the quest for the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake for the incredibly creative blog The Cupcake Project. I wrote up a little blurb as to why I should be chosen. It went along the lines of I have a blog, I’m a baker, I’ve made the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake, blah blah blah. Anywho, my wit and words won me a prized spot in this little venture. (And you should have seen the celebration. Bouncing-in-my-seat, hands-in-the-air ecstatic. Luckily, in the privacy of my own home).

And so the quest began. All seven rounds, as it turned out. The goal was a 60 percent vote by Explorers to agree that Yes! This is the Ultimate! Now I won’t lie, I did vote rounds 2 and 6 as winners, and every round had its pros (nicely domed, easy to follow recipe, wonderfully sweet) and cons (ugly appearance, too dense, somewhat dry), but all that turned around when I received Round 7’s recipe in an email mid-May.

Perfect everything. Perfect appearance, perfect crumb, perfect density, perfect texture, perfect chocolate flavor, perfect sweetness; ultimately perfect!

And so, without further ado, I give you…

The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake!!

See Stef’s Blog, The Cupcake Project, for more reviews about the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake!

The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

Makes 12 cupcakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 ounces of your favorite chocolate (you can use any plain chocolate that you like except white chocolate or candy melts. The chocolate doesn't have to be one typically earmarked for baking- any chocolate that isn't flavored and doesn't contain mix-ins like nuts, krispies, nougat, etc. will work.)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil, measured in a liquid measuring cup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup room temperature water, measured in a liquid measuring cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fully combined. The end result should look like wet sand.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Once the melted chocolate is cool enough to touch, add it to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until just combined. Mix in oil, vanilla, and sour cream until just combined.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into a separate medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well after sifting. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition. Mix in water until just combined.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and put in the oven. Check for doneness at 18 minutes - a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. If they are not done, check again every two minutes until they are done. (Mine took 20 minutes!)

Immediately remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place on a cooling rack or on the counter to cool to room temperature.

[If you would like to add coffee to the recipe, either add 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee granules along with the sifted dry ingredients, or replace the water with room temperature brewed coffee.]

Adapted from The Cupcake Project.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

bits and bites

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts.  Figured it was time to be random.

1.  I mentioned this in the last post, but I’m currently reading (almost finished!) Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Loving it.  This is not a happy-go-lucky book.  You’ve been warned.  Also, recently read Her (Laura Zigman) and love love loved that as well.  Witty, well-written, chicklit at its finest.  Couldn’t put it down. 

2. A week or so ago, Nathan and I were out and about and the Google Maps Car passed us!  We waved from our vehicle.  Then, the other night, Nathan was in our front yard and it drove down our street!  He waved (let’s hope that's all he did).  How cool is that?!  It’s the little things :)

3. So I am officially obsessed with four new blogs:  Sally’s Baking Addiction (great indulgences, great detail as to how each ingredient is imperative to making every treat delicious), Averie Cooks (more indulgences and more detail- which has aided me in tweaking some of my recipes at the bakery to make my goodies even better!), Joy the Baker (awesome recipes, awesome writing.  Something about her wit just sucks me in), and The Small Things Blog (hair and makeup help, anyone?  This girls got you covered.  So many cute hair ideas.  (I’m hooked on the alternative bun.)

4. Speaking of following blogs…I added a Bloglovin’ gadget.  Feel free to follow me!

5.  And last but not least, a girl I work with at the bakery recently asked me if I cook at home after baking all morning.  My response:  "not at much as I would like". 

Here is a (large) handful of recipes I came across during July that I hope(!) to make :) I dream big.  Enjoy browsing for yourself, my friends.

whole wheat no-knead dinner rolls with honey butter.  who doesn’t love warm, soft, homemade rolls?
blt pizza.  with roasted corn and crumbled feta.  wow.
cherry vanilla layer cake.  beautiful.
chipotle chicken salad.  let the chicken salad obsession continue.
easy oreo ice cream sandwiches.  simple and genius.
frozen coconut mango pops.  they’re healthy too!
banana zucchini pudding cake.  moist moist and more moist.
maple dijon salmon with bacon.  made this.  loved this.
peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate chip cookie crust.  this might convert me to love cheesecake.
smores cookie sandwiches.  graham cookies + marshmallow filling, dipped in chocolate.
strawberry tuxedo cake.  gorgeous.
salted dark chocolate truffle cookies.  so making these for Christmas.
united states of burgers.  there’s a burger for every state!

oh, and what's that picture at the top of the post, you ask?  just you wait. 

just you wait.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Curried Cranberry Chicken Salad

I'm heading to a party.

A party with presents and pizza and cake and Nathan in a speedo.

It's a birthday party for Benjamin!

Yes, my adorable nephew turns three this weekend and we're going to celebrate.  There will be water games and animals (no, not a petting zoo, just our dogs Sam and Annabelle, so yeah, I guess a petting zoo) and candles (three big special candles) and balloons. 

Our little getaway starts in t-minus two days with the four hour roadtrip north.  The drive usually starts out with me driving (Nathan sleeping), then Nathan driving (me reading while Nathan is ready to chat, reading)-- ps currently reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).  Very good.  Excellent writing but a bit on the morbid side.  Dark, I suppose. 

Before I headed out, though, I was hoping to share this quick and easy chicken salad with you.  (Sorry, not exactly cake and pizza but it's a perfect summertime treat, nonetheless).  Simply chicken tossed with celery, green onions, dried cranberries, and a dash of curry powder, it's a healthy meal that keeps Nathan trim for that speedo. 

Curried Cranberry Chicken Salad

Serves 2-4 (about 3-4 cups)

1 large chicken breast, cooked and chopped (mine was about 10 ounces)
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 (5.3 ounce) container plain greek yogurt (I used Oikos)
1/2 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon curry powder

Mix chicken, celery, green onions, and cranberries in medium size bowl.  In separate, small bowl, mix yogurt, itailian seasoning, salt, pepper, and curry powder.  Pour yogurt mixture over chicken mixture and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Chelsea Original :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Supreme Pizza Skillet Lasagna

You read that right.

Pizza and lasagna, match made in heaven.

We love love love supreme pizza in this house.  It's always a front-runner when we're in the mood for a pizza night (we usually opt for pepperoni pineapple when dining out. do it).  I dreamed up this idea one day (either at the bakery or in the shower- my two key places where inspiration tends to strike) while I was thinking of a way to use up half an onion and a red bell pepper that had been sitting in the fridge a tad too long, and were quickly reaching the end of their prime.  As a result, my brain got to churning, and this was the end result. 

As I prepared to make this meal, I made sure to include all of the essential characteristics necessary to building a supreme pizza- I sauteed up some yellow onion and red bell pepper, tossed in a handful of crumbled italian sausage, sliced up a few fresh mushrooms and black olives, and topped it all off with pepperoni and provolone.  It literally tastes like supreme pizza was dumped in a bowl with some noodles.  And it's nothing short of amazing.

Skillet Lasagna

Serves 4

4 ounces lasagna noodles, broken into thirds (I used 4 noodles)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pre-cooked italian sausage crumbles (I used Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Sausage Crumbles)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
3 large mushrooms, sliced thin
14 pepperoni slices
4 large slices of provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In large pot, cook broken pasta noodles according to package directions.

Heat a large (mine was 10.25 inch) oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add in olive oil and butter, then toss in onions and bell peppers with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 6 minutes, until soft. Add in garlic and cook for another minute, then add in sausage crumbles, cook until warmed through.

When noodles have softened, remove with a slotted spoon or drain and set aside for a few minutes.  Once sausage is warmed, add in tomatoes and basil, tossing well to coat. Add in olives and mushrooms, gently folding mushrooms into the sauce mixture.  Cover with lid for about five minutes to allow the mushrooms to cook through.  Add in the broken noodles, using the spatula or spoon to fold the sauce over the noodles. Once noodles are evenly distributed and mostly under the sauce, top with pepperoni slices and provolone. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble.

Adapted from my Skillet Lasagna which was adapted from here!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rosemary Muffins

I probably should have made these into a fancy variation of the croissant.

Rosemary-infused croissants?  Hmmmm.

You see, today I had a very good morning at the bakery.  It's not every day that everything I bake lives up to my expectations (this bar is set pretty high).  Cakes stick to pans, cookies get a touch browner than I'd prefer (I'm very particular and careful with my cookies; crisp edges with a slightly under baked, gooey center is where it's at), banana bread doesn't rise at much as I'd like).  Today, however, everything turned out beautiful: red velvet cupcakes domed, buttermilk pies cracked, petit fours became a beautiful golden. 

As a result, I was feeling empowered and spent the evening at home cooking in the kitchen.  Yes, after six hours of baking, I still chose to stand in my own kitchen listening to Celine Dion (Nathan was making his weekly run to Home Depot) making mango salsa, barbecue salmon, sauteed zucchini and had the urge to make these muffins. 

These were my go-to muffin the summer before my senior year in college.  I made them almost weekly (ps great after bar food. you heard me).  If you love rosemary, than these babies are for you.  A slightly sweet muffin doused with rosemary and a light sprinkling of sugar on top.  Perfect for family brunch, an afternoon snack, or over the sink after a late night out, of course.

I'll conquer those croissants next time.  My chicken salad would like that.

Rosemary Muffins

Makes 10 muffins

3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine milk and rosemary in 2-cup glass measure.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Add butter, stirring until melted. Cool to room temperature (I'm impatient and placed mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes).

Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk mixture and egg, and add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the muffins spring back when lightly touched in center. Remove the muffins from the pan immediately, and place on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spicy Ginger Balsamic Tomato Salad

We have officially had our first dinner party.

There were only four of us.  And the other couple was my parents.  And they pretty much did all the cooking.  But still.  We had guests for dinner, at our table, in our home.  We're so grown up!

Upon their arrival, the car was unloaded (wine in tow, no doubt), the tour was given (we've bought a few things since their last visit), and drinks were poured (beer for the guys, said wine for mom, fruity cocktail for me, as usual).  At last, our little party was underway.  While the men manned the grill, us ladies stayed in the kitchen making this tomato salad- a light and refreshing side dish straight from the kitchen of my sister. 

We were first introduced the evening after my brother's wedding at a small get-together at her place and Nathan's been talking about it ever since.  Once my parents announced their intentions to drive down and stay with us for a little weekend vacay, they insisted we put our lonely grill to use, and I knew instantly that tomato salad would make an appearance.  The tomatoes get a little heat from the jalapeno, a bit of a zing from the ginger, and a salty drizzle of balsamic poured over top; we definitely enjoyed good company and good food that evening.

Spicy Ginger Balsamic Tomato Salad

Serves 4

2 large tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1 green onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combines tomatoes, green onion, garlic, and jalapeno in large bowl.  In separate, small bowl, whisk together balsamic, brown sugar, olive oil, ginger, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Pour dressing over tomato mixture and toss to coat.  Chill for one hour before serving.

Adapted from my sister, Mel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confetti Cake Pie (with a graham cracker crust!)

Happy Birthday!... me!! 

Well, unfortunately, my birthday fell on a Monday this year, which is the start of a work week (boo!), but fortunately, this means I get to celebrate both the weekend before and the weekend after (woo!)! 

So to start things off I made a cake.  Or a pie.  It's essentially a confetti cake baked in a graham cracker crust, so I hereby declare this a cake pie.  And it's my birthday, so I make the rules.

Now yes, this is a cake without the frosting, but no frosting needed here, my friends.  The graham crust adds a subtle sweetness to each and every bite, which works out well for me because, quite frankly, I have icing issues (I reattempted the Flag Cake over the weekend and FAIL- it has now been nixed from the newly renamed 26-during-27 list). 

As far as where the idea came from for this crazy combo?  I have no idea*.  But it was so good, I'm tempted to make another as the celebration continues this weekend with a very welcome two-day visit from my parents :)

*Another year older, another year wiser.

Confetti Cake Pie

Makes one 8 or 9-inch pie

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 9 full-sheet graham crackers)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

 6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/8 cup yellow or white boxed cake mix
1/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  If using graham cracker sheets, using a food processor or blender, pulverize the graham crackers into a fine crumb. Pour crumbs into a medium bowl and mix with melted butter and sugar. Press into an ungreased 8-inch or 9-inch pie dish.  Bake for 8 minutes.  While baking, prepare the cake filling.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the flour and cake mix and mix until just combined.  Fold in the sprinkles.  Spread gently into warmed crust. 

Increase oven temperature to 350.  One preheated, bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

26-by-27 another year older

I'm gonna be honest with you.  First, yes, I turn 27 on Monday.  I won't lie about my age.  Yet.

Secondly, the 26-by-27 thing.  Well...let's have a look:

Oh wait....I have added a little comment/update/lol at myself/admittance of failure at the end of each goal (see the purple).  I have no shame.  Read for your pleasure, or don't, that's cool too, because there's no fancy picture of food at the end and no recipe to be found either.  Sorry folks.

Oh, and what's going to happen now?  Well, I will continue to work on accomplishing this list of course and heck, maybe I'll even add something to it.  I'm crazy like that.

Here goes:

1.  Revamp blog.  (I really want to change the look and do some other things I am trying to figure out as a newbie to the blogosphere.) - Done!  But always a work in progress.  As you can see, the site has changed and looks a bit simpler- clean lines, white with hints of color- more of the look I was going for.  As I "evolve" in the blogging world, however, improvements will continue to be made.

2.  Join an ongoing blog recipe challenge.  (i.e. Secret Recipe Club, Tuesdays with Dorie, etc.) - many "clubs" require you to be a reasonably established blog (i.e. a minimum of 100 posts).  I have recently accomplished this goal so now I'm on the lookout!

3.  Enter some sort of local food contest. - yeaaaaa...big slacker here.  Haven't even attempted to look for one.  Oops.

4.  Overcome my fear of the grill.  (We now have a grill, however I am a little afraid to attempt making something on it.  It's a bit out of my comfort zone.) - another big failure.  No attempts whatsoever.  :(

5.  Take a cake decorating class. - I'm in desperate need of this.  I am a miserable mess when it comes to icing a cake.

6.  Finally try quinoa.  (I gotta find out what this latest craze is all about.) - Done!  Made Corn and Cheddar Quinoa and it knocked my socks off.

7.  Make something with a fresh coconut. - Coconut purchased!  However they last for six months, so I can't say the purchase is a big enough motivator.

8.  Recreate the Perfect Margarita.  (The restaurant chain Red Rock Canyon Grill makes the best margarita EVER, fittingly titled The Perfect Margarita, and I need to know how to replicate one at home.) - oooo, I think I need a margarita tonight.

9.  Make a bundt cake.  (The bundt pan was not my friend on Easter, destroying the look- but luckily not the taste!- of my strawberry orange cake.  I swore that day I would never make a bundt cake again but I can't let the pan win.) - Done!  Baked up a Red Velvet Marble Cream Cheese Pound Cake and it came out beautifully.  Also, attempted the Easter Day bundt again!

10.  Make my Grandma Min's apple pie.  (As a little girl, I remember loving my grandma's apple pie and I need to recreate this fabulous dessert of hers.) - Done!  Created a Salted Caramel Apple Pie for Thanksgiving that was reminiscent of the juicy fruit pie I remember. 

11.  Make my Grandma Audrey's spaghetti sauce.  (This was another favorite of mine growing up.  I already have the recipe, now it's just a matter of making it.) - Done!  Made is for a romantic Valentine's Day 2013 dinner.

12.  Find an awesome scone recipe.  (I actually made some scones a couple of days ago but Epic Fail they were.  I literally threw them in the trash- something unheard of in our house.  I have been searching high and low for a recipe that will not let my taste buds down.) - this will probably be my next thing to cross off the list.  Got a few ideas churning...

13.  Can something.  (I'm thinking jam but am open to suggestions.) - Definitely jam or something with tomatoes...homemade spicy ketchup!!

14.  Try a Corona-Rita.  (How did I never hear about this in college??) - I seriously can't believe I still haven't had one!

15.  Make a special day trip to Dallas or Plano for Trader Joe's, Central Market, and Sur La Table.  (Dream Day!)...and maybe stop in Ikea while I'm in the area :) - partly done, a trip to Ikea was made and I intend to go again soon.  One word: Paradise. - oh I want to shop just reading this!

16.  Attend a food festival. - fail.  that's all I can say.

17.  Take a trip. - Done!  Went to Minnesota for a family vacation at the end of July!

18.  Go to Six Flags.  (It's been years since I've gone and now that we live so close I've gotta take advantage!) - Done!  Went for my 26th birthday!

19.  Reread The Happiness Project.  (Such an interesting and thought-provoking book.  A great reference for bettering yourself and loving life.  Highly recommended.) - dang it!  I keep finding other books to read!  (see #20).

20.  Read at least one book per month.  (I wish I could do more than this but there's just not enough time in the day.) - July: Catching Fire, August: Secrets to Happiness, September: Mockingjay, October: Where We Belong, November: The Next Best Thing, December: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, January: (see December), February: The Year of Living Famously, March: Gone Girl, April: Last Night At Chateau Marmont, May: The Husband, June: The Night I Got Lucky,

21.  Paint three rooms in the house.  (The guest room, office, and master bath to be exact.  Painting does wonders to a room.) - changing this to two.  I put new linens in the guest and the walls now compliment the bedding, so we're going to nix the guest room from this list.

22.  Clean up flower beds in the backyard.  (I've done some planting in the front this summer, but I want to take advantage of the raised beds we have out back.) - looking for someone to do this for me.  will pay in food.

23.  Buy an old piece of furniture and refinish it.  (Sounds like a fun and rewarding project!) - got the furniture, got the paint.  Let's do this.

24.  Eat at one new restaurant each month.  (We like to eat at home after a long day and tend to have our favorite lunch spots but it's always fun to try something new- especially when we have an overwhelming amount of options.) - July: Fuzzy's, August: Palio's, September: Zoe's Kitchen, October: Big Fish, November: Freebirds, December: Ti Amo, February (two-fer): Chuy's, California Pizza Kitchen, March: Pei Wei, April: The Tavern, Joe T. Garcia's, May: Which Wich, June: Brunos,

25.  Marry Nathan.  (We've been together for four years.  I think it's time.) - this just announced:  Colorado, December 2013 baby!!

26.  Practice Practice Practice layer cakes and recreate the Flag Cake for July 4th, 2013. - EPIC FAIL.  Flag cake is the death of me!!  I will continue to practice those layer cakes though.