Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fluffy Fruit Dip

There are times in life, I ask myself, WWJD?

WWJD with this fruit tray? I knew we would be having a tray of fruit for my friend Krystal’s bachelorette party/lingerie shower. So I asked myself, WHAT WOULD JAMIE DO? hehehe… My friend Jamie is a great hostess. When some friends & I went over to her place after work one night (the night I brought these meringues), she had fresh fruit with this yummy wonderful dip. We devoured the dip. Because I knew how tasty it was, I knew I needed to make it for Krystal’s party. Sure enough it got devoured there too. Sorry I don’t have an amazing picture that lives up to the tastiness of this dip. I’ll definitely make it again and get a better picture, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share this. It’s so easy to whip up, and can be adapted for different flavors.

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Fluffy Fruit Dip

from my friend Jamie

Ingredients:

2/3 container of whipped topping, such as Cool Whip (I used HFCS-free TruWhip, learn more about it at the bottom of the post)
2/3 container marshmallow fluff
about 1/2 a packet of Jello Pudding (the small sized box), any flavor

Directions:

Combine whipped topping and marshmallow fluff. Stir until combined. Add in Jello pudding powder and stir well.

Feel free to use more or less whipped topping, marshmallow fluff, or pudding mix to your taste. I had a relatively small bowl to put it in, so that's why I didn't use the whole container. I used Coconut flavored pudding, because that's what I had on hand, but you could easily customize it to your liking. I know from experience that banana flavor is good, and I could imagine lemon, vanilla, or even cheesecake flavor tasting great as well! You could also easily substitute a sugar-free pudding flavor, and a lite or fat free whipped topping.

**My review of TruWhip: This stuff was awesome! In my opinion, it had MUCH better flavor than Cool Whip does. It has a subtly different sweetness. I DEFINITELY recommend it, especially if you are trying to cut out HFCS wherever you can. I picked mine up at Whole Foods.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baked Tilapia with Onions, Peppers, Olives, and Feta

One night I knew I wanted to cook. I was craving a home cooked meal, as I often have to eat really random things at really random times during my “busy days” at work (Tues-Thurs I work 5pm – 2amish). I began to search for a tilapia recipe. I looked at all my bookmarked recipes, which I recently moved over to delicious. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, I highly recommend it. It’s a nice way to keep your bookmarks organized, and always accessible. This way instead of them only existing on my laptop, I could now access, and even add to them while I was at work, or elsewhere. I browsed all my bookmarks, but I didn’t see anything I really wanted to make. So, then I used a cool feature of delicious. I browsed other people’s bookmarks! I love this feature! I’ve found some recipes that I ended up bookmarking myself. And I must admit I even added some of my own posts to my bookmarked links to see if other people had them bookmarked on delicious and they did. How cool! 🙂

Back to the recipe, as I was searching other people’s tilapia recipes, I kept running across the same ‘ol same ‘ol. It was a lot of flavors and methods I’d pretty much done before. Then I saw this recipe. I recognized this blog as one I’d landed on before. As I began to look at the ingredients, I got excited to realize I had EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM on hand, and I even had the onion & pepper already chopped up! I must admit though, I was a little wary of the mayonnaise. Once before I had made a fish recipe that required mayo, with not so good results. But I went ahead and made this according to the recipe, and let me assure you, once cooked YOU CAN’T TASTE THE MAYO AT ALL. In fact, once we ate, I completely forgot it was there. This was a great combo of flavors, especially if you’re looking for something different to do with tilapia. I threw in some grape tomatoes as well, because I thought they would add some sweetness and juice to the meal, and I’m really glad I did. As usual, we ate ours with our standard brown rice & steamed veggies. Yummy! This is something I’ll definitely be making again.

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Baked Tilapia with Onions, Peppers, Olives, and Feta

slightly adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen
serves 2

Ingredients:

2 or 3 medium-sized Tilapia filets
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 cup very finely diced red pepper
1/4 cup very finely diced red onion (or sweet white onion)
1/4 cup very finaly diced green olives
1/3 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1-2 T mayo or lite mayo (do not use fat free)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Spray small glass or ceramic casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Heat olive oil in nonstick frying pan and saute red pepper and onion about 3 minutes. Add olives and tomatoes, saute about 2 minutes more. Turn off heat.

Put fish in casserole dish and season with salt and pepper. Spread a small amount of mayo evenly over the surface of each piece of fish. Stir feta into red pepper/onion/olive mixture and spread that over the top of fish. (Pile it on so all the mixture is used. It doesn't matter if some falls off while it's cooking.)

Bake until fish is opaque and white throughout and topping is barely starting to brown, 10-15 minutes. The mayo and the topping will keep the fish moist. Serve hot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Homemade Pretzels

So… I’ve finally conquered my fear of yeast! YAY! Now, I look forward to making LOTS more bread/yeast recipes. I must say I couldn’t of done it without a great supporting cast of tools. I finally bought a pastry mat. This pastry mat was really cool because it’s cloth, and you scrape and press the flour into it to make it non-stick. It also came with a rolling pin cover. The one I got is very similar to this. I’ve already made a handful of sugar cookies (to be seen on the blog soon!), and now the pretzel dough with the help of the pastry cloth, and I really like it. Another tool that came in super-handy was my handy scraper. It was very useful when trying to move the dough around as I was kneading it, and also, I LOVED it once it came time to separate the dough into 8 equal portions. I easily halved the dough, and continued to do so until I had 8 portions. It cut into the dough very easily. Also, I used the scraper to press the flour into my pastry mat before beginning.

When it came time to make the pretzel shapes, I didn’t have a hard time making the shapes. They were so cute and pretzel-like. The problem I encountered was when I tried to transfer them from the baking sheet to the boiling water. They lost a lot of their shape. Some of them were also pretty slippery when I was trying to remove them from the water. But I think that just takes more practice. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get the pretzels into the water without them practically falling apart, please share your tips!

These pretzels were SO soft, and delicious and chewy. It’s like NIGHT AND DAY comparison between this, and the crap you get at a concession stand. These were addictive! I enjoyed mine with honey mustard, and The Boy had regular mustard. The Boy did have one request. He said next time make them Cinnamon Sugar, like the ones at the mall!

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Soft Pretzels

from Joy the Baker, who adapted from Gourmet, March 2004

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pretzel salt or grill seasoning
plus 1 heaping Tablespoon baking soda (add it to the boiling water just before throwing in the pretzel dough!)

Directions:

Stir together sugar, yeast, and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (105 to 110°F) in a glass measuring cup, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Whisk together 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon table salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon flour, then turn out dough and knead, gradually dusting with just enough additional flour to make a smooth sticky dough, about 8 minutes. (Dough needs to be somewhat sticky to facilitate rolling and forming into pretzels).

Return dough to bowl and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and cut into 8 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll 1 piece back and forth on a clean dry work surface into a rope about 24 inches long. If dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust them with flour. Twist dough into a pretzel shape. (Dough will retract as you form the pretzel.)

Transfer pretzel with your hands to an oiled baking sheet and form 7 more pretzels in same manner with remaining dough, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.

Let pretzels stand, uncovered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a wide 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add heaping tablespoon of baking soda.

Using both hands, carefully add 3 pretzels, 1 at a time, to boiling water and cook, turning over once with tongs, until pretzels are puffed and shape is set, about 3 minutes. Transfer parboiled pretzels to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 5 pretzels in 2 batches.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil paper, then arrange pretzels on sheet. Brush pretzels lightly with some of egg and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown and lightly crusted, about 35 minutes (mine did not need to bake anywhere near this long, but mine also appear to be thinner than Joy the Baker's). Cool 15 minutes, then serve warm. (I also only needed to cool mine for 5 minutes or so before serving. But perhaps that's just impatience.)

Cooks' notes:
• Dough can be mixed and kneaded in a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook.
• Pretzels are best the day they are made. (When they are kept overnight, salt may dissolve.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Malibu Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

I decided to prepare all the food for my friend’s bachelorette/lingerie shower. When I asked her what flavor of cupcakes she wanted she just shrugged and said “I don’t know, whatever you want to make will be good.” Yes, this is the same friend from my recent brownie-making. Well, you see folks, I’m often incapable of making decisions, and I wanted to be sure and make something she liked. So I began to read from a list of the cupcake/cake combos I had bookmarked. When I got to “Malibu Strawberry-Lemon Cupcakes”, as in MALIBU RUM, she instantly said “Yeah, make that, that sounds good!” Whew! Decision made!

I was a bit intimidated by the cupcakes because they called for an italian meringue buttercream. I’d heard scary things about this type of frosting curdling and not turning out, but I’m happy to report I had no such problems! The frosting was smooth and creamy, and delicious! Because of all the other food I was prepping, my crazy crazy work schedule, and the fact that the shower was being held 1.5 hours away, I wanted to make the frosting 2 days ahead of time. I chilled it in the fridge, but once it came time to frost the cupcakes I didn’t give the frosting enough time to chill. It was hard, and wouldn’t squeeze through my decorator tip. I ended up having to zap it in the microwave at a low temperature, and I was scared death I would melt it and lose the wonderful fluffy creaminess that I got after originally making it. It still turned out ok, but not AS beautiful as when I first made the frosting! *sigh*

And as for the cupcakes, I’m not sure I’ve ever made cupcakes with buttermilk before. These cooked up in an interesting way. It’s like the top became golden, and then the inside bubbled up. They all turned out lopsided. So I ended up shaving them off to make them even. Which is fine with me, I got to test taste them! They were yummy, but I think if I made these again, I would use a different lemon cake recipe. One that might bake up more evenly.

Either way, this was a decadent combo, and everyone at the shower loved the cupcakes! The strawberry drizzle is a great addition, and I’m glad I didn’t leave it out.

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Malibu Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt (I increased this to around 1/4 because I used unsalted butter)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) salted butter, softened (I used unsalted)
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Malibu Italian Meringue Buttercream:
2 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1-2 tablespoons Malibu Caribbean Rum, coconut flavor, to taste (I used 2 of course!)

Strawberry Puree:
5 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed (I used fresh strawberries)
1 teaspoons sugar, more or less (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, more or less (to taste)

Directions:

CUPCAKES:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line pan with cupcake liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until well-blended on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

Fill each cupcake cup about two-thirds full and bake for about 17-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centrer of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING:
Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat just before stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, stir together the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and washing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. When syrup reaches a boil, put your candy thermometer into it and continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches about 238-242 degrees Fahrenheit.

Immediately remove from heat, turn your mixer back on (if you had it off like me) and slowly pour the hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, beating constantly at high speed and making sure to not pour directly on the side of the bowl. Beat meringue until the bowl is cool to the touch.

Change out your whisk for your paddle attachment and scrapes down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, gradually add butter about two pieces at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished. If that doesn’t work, try chilling it a bit in case your meringue was too hot.) Finally, add the Malibu and mix thoroughly.

PUREE:
Place the strawberries and their juice into your blender. Pulse a few times until pureed. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice until it’s the taste you want.

Cupcake assembly:
Pipe or spread on IMBC frosting. Drizzle some strawberry puree on top. Garnish with a strawberry.

Sorry I don’t have more/better pictures. I was running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything together before everyone started showing up!