Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Classic Pooh Baby Shower

I just wanted to share a few pictures from my friend April's baby shower!  April is due in April and we all got together a few Saturdays ago to celebrate her and the little (or should I say big because the baby is already in the 90th percentile for size!) bun in her oven.

Our friend Allison was in charge of the decorations so she and I got together to plan some fun centerpieces!

The theme was Classic Pooh so we wanted to make it very rustic with muted pastels.  Here is what we came up with:

  • Mason jars filled with different kinds of honey from Whole Foods.  These cute little honey dippers were tied on with ribbon and labels for the honey
  • The jars of honey were placed on a bed of moss, continuing the rustic theme
  • Yellow, white and green flowers were bought at Whole Foods and arranged in mason jars
  • A runner of burlap was draped across each table
  • Special thank you to Allison's father who was in charge of the wood. He sliced the large wooden discs from a log on their "farm".  You can find large pieces of wood on sites like Etsy but they were pretty pricey.  
The jars of honey and stuffed animals were given away as prizes for the game of "Shower Bingo" that was played.  It was a lovely day and we are all so excited for April and Nick!  

Another thank you goes out to Alison's boyfriend, Mark, who was able to get in touch with his feminine side by helping to put all of this together :)    

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tex-Mex Chicken Chili

Hello everyone!  Have you all been surviving this polar vortex?  I'm not going to lie... I really don't mind it.  I'm from Cleveland, live in Cleveland and spent almost every vacation from the age of 4 to 21 in Colorado.  I'm built for this weather.  Even in my four year stint in Florida, I desperately missed the change of seasons.  

I wish I would have had a video of me walking the dogs in our backyard yesterday.  We have a slight hill in the back and when I was about to take the dogs up it, little did I know there was a five foot deep snow drift!  I took one step and ended up chest deep in snow.  The dogs were practically buried but loved every minute of it, frolicking around in the deep snow.  So much fun! 

Cold weather like this calls for something to warm the soul and that is exactly what this Tex-Mex Chili does! Matt said he hates the term Tex-Mex, but I couldn't think of a better way to describe this dish.  Tex because it is reminiscent of a chili with tomatoes and chili powder.  Mex because I added typical Mexican components such as cumin, chipotle powder, corn, cilantro and black beans. He also said that this was the best soup I ever made... blushing!         

Tex-Mex Chicken Chili
2 small onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2  cans (15 oz) cannellini beans
8 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced (15 oz) tomatoes
8 ounces frozen corn
2 poblano peppers, finely diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry coriander
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or cayenne)
1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare vegetables by chopping the onion, carrots, celery and garlic.  Place a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add olive oil then add chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic.  Cook for 4-6 minutes and sprinkle with a pinch of each salt and pepper.

Add ground chicken and use wooden spoon to break it up.  Keep cooking over medium heat, stirring from time to time.

In a food processor, add both cans of cannellini beans.   Pulse until a paste forms.  To help the mixture move around, add a few ladles of chicken stock.

Add the bean paste to the chicken mixture in pot.  Stir to combine.  Pour chicken stock in the pot and mix until the beans are incorporated into stock.  Add black beans, tomatoes, corn , peppers, chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander and chipotle powder.  If you don't have chipotle powder, you can substitute with cayenne or 1 teaspoon of hot sauce.

Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Taste and the add salt as pepper as needed.  Once ready to serve, add fresh chopped cilantro.  Garnish with avocado slices.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scrambled Eggs with Wilted Arugula + Parmesan + Truffle Oil

Scrambled eggs... oh how of love thee.  How many ways can you make scrambled eggs? About a million + one different ways.  They are my go-to saving grace when I need a quick, protein packed breakfast.  

Now they may seem easy enough to make but I cannot stress enough to use the best ingredients you can find.  Not just for scrambled eggs, but every time you cook.  

Take these eggs for example. For my eggs, I always try to purchase farm fresh eggs or at least cage-free organic.  For the cheese, I buy a block of parmigiano reggiano, grind it up in my food processor and store it in the fridge to have on hand.  For the salt, I always use kosher or sea salt.  For the pepper, each week I hand crush peppercorns in my mortar and pestle to have fresh cracked pepper readily available.

Ok, I realize that the paragraph above makes me come off as a total food snob but the quality of the ingredients truly does make a huge difference in the final outcome.  Simple ingredients can be magically transformed into the loveliest of all dishes. 

And that is exactly what these eggs are.  Lovely.  Decadent.  Savory.  Creamy. Salty. Fresh.  Delicious.  Cooking low and slow makes them soft and creamy.  The peppery arugula cuts right through the richness of the eggs.  I do hope that you make these at some point, for these eggs are my absolute favorite.    

Scrambled Eggs with Wilted Arugula + Parmesan + Truffle Oil
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
healthy pinch of salt
healthy pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup arugula, roughly chopped
truffle oil and parmesan cheese for garnish

In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper until thoroughly mixed.  Place butter in a non-stick skillet and turn heat on low.  Prep the arugula by running a knife over it, roughly chopping.

Once butter has melted, pour the eggs into the pan.  Slowly run a spatula through the eggs, scraping the bottom of the pan.  When the eggs come together but are still creamy and soft, add the arugula.  Continue to cook until arugula has wilted and eggs are cooked.

To serve, garnish with some more parmesan and drizzle a few drops of truffle oil over the top.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chocolate Ganache Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

I have died and gone to chocolate heaven.  That is what I thought when I tried these cupcakes.  My mother's birthday was a few weeks ago and I decided to make these after looking for a good cupcake recipe.  These cupcakes are really special.  The kind that say, "I love you so much that I took a whole day and used 3,981 pounds of chocolate to make these for you."

This is hands down the best frosting I've ever tried... or made for that matter.  It is beautifully smooth, shiny and so easy to make.  The funny thing is that I actually hate frosting.  Not all frostings but the sugary grocery store frostings that leave a film of gunk on the roof of you mouth. Yuck!  I've always liked a good cream cheese frosting or whipped cream frosting but I'm very picky about buttercream.  I actually had some of this leftover and my friend Allison and I just piped it out on to a plate and ate some with a spoon.  I'm not proud but it was just too irresistible.

Just when you think that the cake component could't get any more chocolate-y, you take a bite and your teeth sink into the lovely surprise of the ganache filling.  Heavenly I tell you... heavenly.

Making baked goods from scratch really does make a world of a difference.  Forget about those cake mixes and tubs of premade frosting.  If you are going to splurge, you might as well do it right.  

First make the ganache filling

After it has melted together, let it set in the fridge

Time for the cupcakes.  Pour the coffee over the chocolate and cocoa.

Whisk until smooth.

Get the dry ingredients ready.

Then the wet.

You will add this to the cooled chocolate mixture first.

This is the chocolate/cocoa/coffee mixed with the eggs.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients.

Your batter is ready.

I like to fill my tins about 2/3 of the way full.

If you haven't had enough chocolate yet...


The amount worked our perfectly for 12 cupcakes.

See how nicely they domed while baking?

Let cool.

More chocolate.  This time for the frosting.

Melt and cool.

Add butter and powdered sugar to the food processor.

Then cocoa.

Then salt.

Pulse to combine.

Add the corn syrup. I know, I know...  not remotely good for you but it really makes this frosting over the top.


And the cooled chocolate. Pulse to combine.

Just look at that.  Seriously?  I want to hang this picture on my wall.

Piping this frosting is the best way to top the cupcakes.

Chocolate Ganache Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
Recipe courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker
makes 12 cupcakes
Chocolate Ganache 
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup Dutch cocoa powder
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Finely chop the chocolate and add to a small mixing bowl.  Add the cream and powdered sugar and mix well.  Microwave for about 30 seconds then remove and whisk until smooth.  Place bowl in the refrigerator and let set for no longer than 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with liners and set aside. 

Add the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder to a large mixing bowl and pour the hot coffee over it.  Whisk until chocolate has melted and a smooth mixture forms.  Place in the refrigerator to cool for 20 minutes. 

Add the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda into a mixing bowl and mix together with a whisk.  Set aside.  

Remove cooled chocolate mixture from the refrigerator and mix in the oil eggs and vinegar.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and with a mixer, beat until combined.   

Remove ganache from refrigerator. Using an measuring cup with a spout, evenly fill the cupcake tins with the batter.  Fill them about 2/3 the way up.  In the center of each cupcake, add one rounded teaspoon of the ganache filling.  

Bake cupcakes for about 17-19 minutes, until the cupcake springs back when touched. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pan.  Remove from pan and cool for at least 1 hour on a wire rack.  The center of the cupcake will sink a little bit due to the ganache in the middle. 

Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring as you go.  Set aside to cool.  In a food processor with the blade attachment, add the room temperature butter, powdered sugar, cocoa and salt.  Pulse to combine.  

Add the corn syrup and vanilla and pulse until everything is mixed.  Use a spatula to scrape the sides if needed.  Finally, add the melted, cooled chocolate and pulse until the frosting comes together.  

Fill a piping bag with the frosting and decorate the cooled cupcakes as you wish.     

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