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Proceed with Caution

Updated: 2018-04-18T03:28:48.401-04:00


Movin' on up!


After nearly five (!) years here at Proceed with Caution, I decided it was finally it was time for a change. Check out my new home over at The Balanced Baker and see my newest sweet treat - Irish Trinity Cake!

Tostones (fried plantains) with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dip for a Virtual Baby Shower


I am so excited to be bringing you this recipe today, because it was made for a very special friend, Krystal, from Mrs. Regueiro's Plate. Krystal is a fellow Gleek, and the inspiration behind my Glee Cupcakes series. Today, I'm participating in a virtual baby shower for Krystal, who is expecting her first little one (appropriately nicknamed "Cookie") with her husband, Eric, in just 2 short months! As a tribute to their heritage, all the recipes for this baby shower will be inspired by the Filipino or Cuban cultures. I've been dying to make fried plantains, or tostones, since I discovered them during my brief stint at Columbia University. I spent one fabulous semester of graduate school up in Washington Heights, where a local restaurant, El Malecon, serves up the best chicken (and fried plantains) around. Krystal's baby shower finally gave me the occasion that I needed to take the plunge and try to make them at home. These crisp fried plantains are a treat in and of themselves, but when paired with a cool, tangy, creamy dip - they are out of this world! Tostones (fried plantains) with Creamy Garlic Cilantro Dip Source: Adapted from GoodVegYield: Serves 2-4 as appetizersPreparation time: 15 minutesCook time: 20 minutesTotal time: 35 minutes Ingredients2 green plantains 1-4 cups canola or safflower oil sea salt 4-5 cloves roasted garlic 1 cup sour cream or plain low fat greek yogurt 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped juice of one lime 1 green onion, roughly chopped pinch salt pinch fresh cracked pepper InstructionsTo make the garlic dip: Add roasted garlic, sour cream/greek yogurt, cilantro, green onions, and lime juice to a food processor or blender. Process until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until tostones are ready.To peel the plantains: Start by running a paring knife 3-4 times along the length of the plantain, only going deep enough to slice the thick skin. Peel away the skin of the plantains. Slice the plantains, on the bias, about 1/4 inch thick.  Place slices in a bowl of lightly salted water to prevent browning before cooking.Heat 1 to 4 cups oil (depending on the size of your cooking vessel) in a large pan over medium high heat (oil should reach 350-375 degrees F). Dry the plantains and carefully add to the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry the plantains 2-4 minutes on each side, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel.Carefully press the plantains between two sheets of wax paper, using a tortilla press, or the bottom of a large glass. Fry the smashed plantains another 1-2 minutes in the hot oil.Sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy! [...]

Valentine’s Pound Cake


I'm mildly obsessed with baking a surprise shape into a cake or cupcakes. I can envision something for almost every occasion - shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, bunnies for Easter, stars for the 4th of July (or Rachel Berry), pumpkins for Halloween, and of course, hearts for Valentine's Day. I am only limited by my horrible 3-dimensional carving skills or my supply of mini cookie cutters. Cupcakes are easy because you can use the cookie cutters to create your cake inserts, but baking into a cake takes more... artistic talent. A heart shape is relatively easy to carve free-hand, and since I chose pound cake as a medium, all I needed was one long piece of cake for carving. To make this cake, I first baked one pound cake with enough red food coloring to make it pink. I let it cool completely, and froze it to help make it stiffer for carving. Then I carved out the heart shape with a good knife. I prepared the batter for a second pound cake, and inserted the pink heart cake into the batter before putting it in the oven. Pound cake is supposed to rise a bit in the oven, so you might not be able to completely cover the pink heart cake with the batter for the second cake. Mine started out covered, but the batter melted down and evened out before starting to rise. In the end, some of the heart cake was poking out the top, but I almost preferred the look of that part of the cake, once sliced. I was very happy with the way it turned out, and it was a huge hit at the Valentine's Day Tea that I attended! This is a cute way to celebrate Valentine's Day. A classic pound cake with a heart baked in the middle, served with strawberries and whipped cream is sure to be a hit! Valentine's Pound Cake Source: Baking IllustratedYield: Serves 12Preparation time: 20 minutesCook time: 70-80 minutesTotal time: 1 hour, 30 minutes Ingredients16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool1 1/3 cups sugar (9 1/3 ounces)3 large eggs, at room temperature3 large egg yolks, at room temperature1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/2 teaspoons water1/2 teaspoon salt1 1/2 cups plain cake flour (6 ounces) (note: Bridget recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. I definitely would have done so if I'd see her post before making this.) InstructionsAdjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan ( 7.5 cup capacity). Fit a sheet of foil or parchment paper lengthwise in the bottom of the greased pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides. Fit a second sheet crosswise in the pan in the same manner.Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 15 seconds. With the machine still on, sprinkle the sugar in slowly, taking about 30 seconds. Beat the mixture until light, fluffy, and almost white, 4 to 5 minutes, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir together the eggs, yolks, vanilla, and water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. With the mixer running at medium-high speed, add the egg mixture to the buter and sugar in a very slow, thin stream. Finally, beat in the salt. Place 1/2 cup flour in a sieve and sift it over the batter. Fold gently with a rubber spatula, scraping up from the bottom of the bowl, until the flour is incorporated. Repeat twice more, adding flour in 1/2-cup increments.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Bake until a toothpick or thin skewer inserted into the crack running a long the top comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. (I found it did not take this long in my oven. 60 minutes was enough for mine, so check early!) Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Place a second wire rack on the cake bottom, then turn the cake top-side up. Cool to room temperature, remove and discard the foil, and serve. If not served immediately, wrap the cake in plastic, then in foil.[...]




Along with pico de gallo and fresh tomatillo salsa (which I hope to share someday!), this is another favorite recipe to come from my husband's family. It's so easy to throw together, and with avocados on sale for $1 each the past few weeks, we've been enjoying it every weekend. There are several schools of thought when it comes to what belongs in guacamole, but I definitely love the simplistic approach of this recipe from my husband's aunt, Ethel.

Creamy avocados in harmony with lime and cilantro make this a perfect snack for your next party, or any day!



Source: Tia Ethel
Yield: About 2 cups
Preparation time: 10 minutes


  • 4 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • pinch salt, to taste


  1. Add the flesh from the avocados to a large bowl or food processor. Set aside one or two of the pits; we'll add them back at the end to keep the guacamole from browning.
  2. Add juice of 2 limes, cilantro, garlic powder (if using), and a pinch of salt to the bowl.
  3. Blend with an immersion blender or process in the food processor, until well blended and no large pieces of avocado are visible.
  4. Check for taste; add more salt and blend again if needed. I like to taste the guacamole using the chips that it will be served with, since those are often salty on their own.
  5. Add reserved avocado pits and push them into the guacamole.  Serve immediately, or cover tightly with plastic wrap pressed against the guacamole and chill in the refrigerator until serving. (I prefer it slightly chilled, so I like to do this.)

    Baked Buffalo Wings


    When I was first getting to know my (now) husband, I was relieved to discover there would never be a sports team rivalry in our house. The only sport he (mildly) cares for is football, and his favorite team is ::snicker:: the 49ers. I'm not a huge sports fan myself, but I'll watch baseball if the Red Sox are playing, football if the Patriots are playing, hockey if the Bruins are playing, and basketball if the Celtics are playing (maybe). I never dreamed we'd have such an interesting day in our house, as the day of the AFC/NFC championship games. I eagerly watched as much as I could of both games (working around our son's naps and bedtime). First - the Pats win. And down to the last few minutes, the 49ers could have pulled off a victory, too. I was a little sad at the loss, because that would have made for a really exciting Superbowl in our house! I wanted to make buffalo wings for this day of football. I've used Alton's method/recipe before, but when I finally got around to trying that sauce, I was underwhelmed. So this time I went off in search of a new recipe, and this one caught my eye. I decided to give this new method a try, as well, as it looked a little easier and I liked the idea of baking the wings for a few minutes with the sauce on them. We loved this spicy and slightly sweet sauce for buffalo wings. These baked wings aren't as crisp as fried ones, but I actually prefer them! To turn up the heat, increase the cayenne in the coating, or spike the sauce with some Tabasco or other favorite hot sauce. Baked Buffalo Wings Source: Slightly adapted from Lana's Cooking Yield: Serves 2-3 Preparation time: 20 minutes Inactive time: 1 hour Cook time: 1 hour Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes Ingredients3/4 cup flour1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, or more to taste1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1 teaspoon salt, divided20 chicken drummettes1/4 cup butter, melted3/4 cup Frank's, or your favorite hot sauce2 tablespoons honey2 tablespoons soy sauceInstructionsPrepare a large baking sheet by lining with foil. Spray a cooling rack generously with cooking spray and place in the baking sheet. Add flour, cayenne powder, garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a large ziploc bag. Seal the bag and shake to mix ingredients together.Dry the drummettes well with paper towels, then toss in the ziploc bag until well coated, about 5 at a time. Shake off the excess flour and place on prepared rack.Place the wings in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least one hour.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake wings for 25 minutes, turn each wing over, then bake an additional 25 minutes.Meanwhile, whisk together the melted butter, hot sauce, honey, soy sauce and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Remove the wings from the oven and dip them 3 or 4 at a time in the sauce mixture. Place the coated wings back on the pan, return the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 6-7 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on a serving dish and drizzle remaining sauce over wings. [...]

    Carrot Cake Comparison


    Today, I am honored to be recognized by a fellow food blogger, Jen of The Beantown Baker. She's included me in her (fabulous) Friday Favs series!  Hop on over to her blog to see the results of my carrot cake comparison!

    Chipotle Salsa Turkey Burgers


    Whew! It's time to dust off the cobwebs around here. We've had a busy summer and I took some time to focus on my family, friends, and home. I'm excited to get back to blogging again, especially with fall just around the corner and a new season of Glee and Glee Cupcakes!Part of the reason for the slow down around here is that I wasn't really making new recipes. To keep things simple in the kitchen, I fell back on things I've made before and knew we loved. This recipe is one that I made many times over this summer. The inspiration came one day when there were a few odd ingredients in the fridge that needed to be used up. This is one of those recipes that, now, I can skip the recipe card and go based on memory - and I love that!These turkey burgers are a great choice when you are looking for something different than your run-of-the-mill burgers. The chipotle and adobo sauce provide a great smokiness, and the red onion is bright punch of flavor. We love them!Chipotle Salsa Turkey BurgersYield: Serves 4Preparation time: 10 minutesCook time: 15 minutesTotal time: 25 minutes Ingredients1 pound ground turkey 1 chipotle pepper with about 1 tablespoon adobo sauce 1/3 cup salsa 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 1/3 cup red onion, diced 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro juice from one large lime, divided 2 teaspoons chili or taco seasoning 1/2 an avocado burger buns, lettuce, sliced tomato, cheese, and whatever else you like to put on burgers InstructionsDe-seed and mince the chipotle pepper. Add all ingredients except avocado and half of the lime juice to a large bowl. Mix gently just until thoroughly combined; do not over-work. Shape into four equal burgers. Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes per side, or until no longer pink in the center. Mix avocado and reserved half of the lime juice in a small bowl. Spread avocado mixture on burger bun. Build the burger with your favorite toppings, and enjoy! [...]

    Good Morning Muffins


    Long ago, I learned an important kitchen lesson: read the recipe in its entirety before you even think about making it. Too many times before that, I'd only have skimmed the ingredient list, then go to make the recipe and realize I need an overnight rest/marinade, or the final product needs 4 hours to set afterwards, or some other hidden time requirement. I'm much better, now, at properly preparing myself for a recipe. Still, I sometimes get ahead of myself. Last Saturday I was happily pouring over a new baking book, when I saw this muffin recipe. I thought to myself, "perfect! I'll prep the ingredients tonight and bake in the morning." I often do that, these days, since dragging out containers of dry ingredients and measuring them is a lot easier when our son is asleep, than when he is awake. Later that evening, when I set out to combine dry ingredients and locate all the others and arrange them in an easy-to-grab place in the fridge, I realize there was very little prep work that could be done. Sure, I could throw together the few dry ingredients, but those comprised not even a third of the ingredient list - not a huge time saver. I didn't want to grate the zucchini or chop the apple ahead of time, so I conceded and left all the prep work for Sunday morning.As I made the muffins on Sunday morning, I wondered if all this work (in itself not much, but more than any other muffin recipe I've made) would be worth it. I got my answer shortly after removing these glorious muffins from the oven. Absolutely - yes! I was so excited to try one, I didn't even wait for them to properly cool. These quickly became my new favorite muffin, and I can't wait to make them again. The add-ins play so well together, against the almost nutty whole wheat muffin base, with just the right hint of cinnamon to round it out. These lightly sweetened muffins are packed with delicious add-ins and make a fabulous breakfast! Good Morning MuffinsSource: Slightly adapted from Flour, by Joanne ChangYield: 12 muffinsPreparation time: 20 minCook time: 45 minTotal time: 1 hour, 5 minutes Ingredients1/2 cup (40 grams) wheat or oat bran1/2 cup (120 grams) hot water1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 1/2 cups packed or 200 grams)1/2 cup (80 grams) raisins1/2 cup (50 grams) pecan halves, chopped and toasted1/2 cup (60 grams) unsweetened flaked coconut1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 cup or 120 grams)2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar3 eggs (or 3 Tablespoons ground flax seed with 9 tablespoons water)3/4 cup (150 grams) canola or safflower oil1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 1/2 cups (210 grams) whole wheat pastry flour3/4 cup (75 grams) old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonInstructionsPosition a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Prepare a muffin tin with nonstick baking spray or paper liners.In a medium bowl, stir together the bran and hot water until the bran in completely moistened. Add zucchini, raisins, pecans, coconut, apple; stir until well mixed.If you are using eggs: Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture thickens and lightens. (This will take 6-8 minutes with a hand-held mixer). On low speed, drizzle in oil, slowly, and vanilla. Adding it slowly is key to maintain the air you have beaten into the eggs. If you are using flax seed/water as an egg substitute: add sugar, flax seed, water, oil and vanilla to a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, folding carefully with a spatula until well combined. Add the bran mixture and fold until well combined. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups to the rim.Bake[...]

    Glee! Star-Berry Cupcakes


    For tonight's season finale (*tear*), I chose to present Rachel's cupcake. I am always sad when the show goes on break or the season ends, but this time I am also excited, as I will have all summer to dream up awesome Gleecakes (thanks, Kelsey!) for the rest of the gang, including Finn, Quinn, Puck, Santana, Brittany, Artie, Sam, Sue, Mr. Schue... maybe even a (crazy)Gleecake for Terri?Rachel is an exceedingly driven member of the student body at McKinley High. She wants nothing more in life than to be a star (well, aside from gaining the affections of Finn). She lets nothing stop in her way of getting as much exposure as possible - from always speaking her mind on any Glee club matter, to securing television commercials for the group, to demanding solos in competition. Rachel is consistently reminding us that stars are her signature icon, so incorporating stars into her cupcake was a given! As Rachel would most surely attest that she is naturally uber talented, I chose a starfruit, with it's natural star shape, to adorn sparkly buttercream topped cupcakes. However, I also couldn't resist hiding a star inside the cupcake because, really, how much fun is this?! Rachel's Star-Berry Cupcake combines vanilla cake with a surprise strawberry star baked inside, topped with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream, silver pearl dust, and sliced starfruit. Star-Berry Cupcakes Source: Vanilla cake reworded from Confections of a Foodie Bride, Strawberry cake slightly adapted from Good Things Catered (inactive blog), Buttercream slightly adapted from The Culinary Life/Garrett McCord and Beantown Baker/epicurious, Yield: about 12 cupcakes Total time: 4 hours 10 minutes, including 2 hours inactive time  IngredientsFor the strawberry cake:1 1/4 cups cake flour1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/8 teaspoon salt1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature3/4 cup sugar1 large egg2 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature2 tablespoons oil1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1 cup chopped strawberries1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, ground fine (optional, for coloring; can use red food coloring instead, if desired)For the vanilla cake:1 1/2 cups cake flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature1 cup sugar2 1/2 large eggs (beat the third egg in a small bowl, use half)1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature2 teaspoons pure vanilla extractFor the buttercream and decoration:4 ounces egg whites (from a carton is fine)6 ounces sugar10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract2-4tablespoonspureed strawberries1 starfruit, sliced thinsilver pearl dustInstructionsFor the strawberry cake:Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare one 9" or 8" round cake pan by spraying with baking spray. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in chopped strawberries and ground freeze dried raspberries (or food coloring, to desired shade of pink/red).Pour batter into cake pan. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and continue to cook on wire rack until thoroughly cooled. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 2 hours to prepare cake for cutting. Once frozen, use a small star cookie or fondant cutter to make star shaped pieces of cake. Use immediately or store, well wrapped, in freezer until you are ready to continue with the cupcakes.For the cupcakes:Preheat oven to 350. Line one muffin/cupcake baking pan with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, a[...]

    Glee! Gingered Bow Cupcakes


    Emma is one of my favorite characters on Glee, so I was very excited to make her cupcake this weekend. On the outside, Emma is a reserved, polished, sweetheart of a guidance counselor with a little spunk to go along with her firery red hair. Inside, she wrestles with more complex issues - a battle with OCD and a longing to be loved by the one man who stole her heart. I knew from the start that her cake would be carrot cake, but with her recent proclamation of Gingerhood, a little kick from some ground ginger was definitely in order! The ginger also helps add a level of complexity to the flavor of the cake, to play off Emma's internal struggles. In keeping with Emma's polished exterior, I topped the cake with a tribute to her signature bow blouses and throwback hairstyle - a white fondant bow with curled tails.Emma's cupcake combines gingered carrot cake with a delicate cream cheese frosting, topped with a signature bow!Gingered Bow Cupcakes[...]

    Glee! Vote for the next cupcake!



    After one final week off, I'll be ready to return next week with another Glee Cupcake. My problem is - I can't decide which one to make! You can help me out by voting for the one you want to see next. I've narrowed the field to Puck, Brittany, or Emma.

    (image) (image) (image)

    The winner is..... 
    Look for Emma's cupcake here on Tuesday!

    Sourdough French Toast


    Much to my own dismay, there will be a short break in the Glee cupcake series. I did make the next ones this past weekend, but the recipe needs tweaking, so I'm holding it back. Artie deserves only the best! Instead, I bring you another weekend breakfast treasure: sourdough french toast. Sourdough bread is one of my husband's favorite foods. He is originally from northern California, and when we head that way to visit his family, a stop in San Francisco is a must. We love taking a stroll down to the Boudin sourdough factory, grabbing a loaf and some cheese, and sitting on the waterfront to enjoy our snack. Of course, it also makes a great companion on the next leg of our trip - wine country. Sourdough + cheese + wine tasting = a great way to spend a beautiful California afternoon. While the sourdough bread from our local grocery store isn't quite the same as Boudin, it's still a fun reminder of our trips out west. I wanted to do something fun with a recent loaf that I purchased, and this seemed like a delicious idea. Someday I will make the leap and try making homemade sourdough, but for now our local bakery bread works just fine! Sourdough is a great choice for french toast because the bread itself carries so much great flavor. Just a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg is used to enhance the natural beauty of sourdough.Sourdough French ToastSource: Slightly adapted from Napa FarmhouseYield: Serves 4Preparation time: 10 minutesCook time: 15 minutesTotal time: 25 minutes Ingredients1 loaf dense sourdough bread2 large eggs1/4 cup milk2 tablespoons whole wheat flour1 teaspoon honey1 pinch kosher salt1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg1-2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed pure maple syrup, for serving fruit, for servingInstructionsCut the sourdough into four 1-inch thick slices, then cut each slice in half, diagonally. Reserve the rest of the loaf for another use. In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, honey, salt, and spices. Heat enough butter in a large skillet so that it coats the surface (larger skillet would need more butter). Dip slices of bread in egg mixture, coating both sides, and then add to skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides.Serve immediately, with maple syrup and fruit.[...]

    Glee! Blackberry Blackbird Cupcakes


    Welcome to the second installment of Glee cupcakes!  I was so excited to discover that it would be a 90 minute episode tonight, that I couldn't wait to get started on the next cupcake.  I seemed to hit it right on the money last week - a diva cupcake for Mercedes paired with an episode with her being a true diva (puppies, anyone?). Seeing the previews for tonight's episode made my pick for this week easy - Kurt! One of my favorite performances from Kurt is the recent Blackbird, sung after the death of Pavarotti (the Warbler's canary mascot), and that became the inspiration for Kurt's Glee cupcake. I used my favorite vanilla bean cake recipe for the cake, because I knew they bake up with a flat top that would be perfect for the design I had in mind.Kurt's Blackberry Blackbird Cupcake combines vanilla bean cake, blackberry filling, and lime swiss meringue buttercream. A nest of candied lime peel holds a fresh blackberry on top of a beautiful rose of buttercream. Blackberry Blackbird Cupcakes Source: Cake reworded from Confections of a Foodie Bride,Buttercream slightly adapted from The Culinary Life/Garrett McCord and Beantown Baker/epicurious,Candied lime peel reworded from Martha Stewart  Yield: about 16 cupcakes Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes IngredientsFor the cake:1 1/2 cups cake flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature1 cup sugar2 1/2 large eggs (beat the third egg in a small bowl, use half)1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/2 cup blackberry jam16 fresh blackberries, rinsed and driedFor the buttercream:8 ounces egg whites (from a carton is fine)12 ounces sugar1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractjuice of one limeFor the candied lime peel:1 lime1 1/2 cups sugar1 cup watersuperfine sugar, for coatingInstructionsFor the cake:Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin/cupcake baking pans with 16 cupcake liners. Set aside.In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Split and scrape the vanilla pod into the butter, discard pod (or reserve for another use). Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Lift up and drop each pan onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 15-18 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely in the pans. While baking and cooling, prepare buttercream and candied lime peel.For the buttercream:Add egg whites and sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk lightly until the muixture reaches 140 degrees F and the sugar is dissolved. Pour hot whites into a room-temperature bowl and whip with a wire whip until double in volume on medium-high speed. When the mixer stops, the meringue should not move around in the bowl. Meanwhile cut up butter into 2-inch pieces. (The butter should be slightly moist on the outside but cold inside.[...]

    Turkey and Chickpea Burgers


    I can't believe it's been almost two years since I started eating clean. (For anyone that's new, take a look back at my introduction to clean eating post.) I haven't been perfect - pregnancy did have an effect on my diet, and I did the best that I could during the few months when not much seemed appetizing. Obviously pregnancy throws a kink in one's weigh loss plans, but I am happy to say that renewing my commitment to eating clean after the birth of our son helped me reach my pre-pregnancy weight. I feel great and am happy to be back on track towards reaching my ideal weight.  Sure, I still bake some decadent desserts and a few non-clean meals and side dishes, but overall, adapting recipes to be a almost, if not totally, clean is second nature. I don't miss much about full fat and over processed foods. I rarely enter the aisles at the grocery store; most of my time is spend in the produce section! I have come to a place where clean eating is easy. It's our lifestyle now, and I am so happy to have over 100 clean recipes on this blog to share with you!  One of my favorite recipes sources is still, two years later, Clean Eating Magazine. I'm not with it enough to know when the next issue is supposed to arrive in the mail, so when it does, it's like Christmas. I have to flip through right away, and check out the newest ideas.  Spring has finally made its way to New England, and that means only one thing to my husband: it's grilling time!  I went back through some old issues for any recipes that were overlooked, and rediscovered this recipe for turkey and chickpea burgers.Turkey burgers are my favorite, and this is a great twist on them. These are quick to throw together and taste great!Turkey and Chickpea BurgersSource: Slightly adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009Yield: Serves 5Preparation time: 10 minTotal time: 25 minutes Ingredients1 can chickpeas (15 oz)1/2 cup scallions, roughly chopped1 teaspoon cumin (we use coriander)1 teaspoon fresh black ground pepper1/4 teaspoon sea salt2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce1 pound ground turkey breast red onion, tomato, lettuce, and buns, for servingInstructionsIn a food processor, combine chickpeas, scallions, cumin, pepper, salt and worchestershire sauce. Pulse until smooth. Transfer chickpea mixture to a large bowl. Add ground turkey and mix until well combined. Divide mixture into 5 equal portions and shape into a patty. Grill burgers over medium heat, about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Serve burgers on buns with your favorite burger toppings.[...]

    Glee! Choco-Diva Cupcakes


    I was in the mood to bake cupcakes over the weekend, but found myself without a cause. Certainly one should be able to make cupcakes just for the heck of it, but I thought for a moment about what I could celebrate with cupcakes, and quickly thought of Glee! My favorite show returns with new episodes this week, after a hiatus during the month of March. I love everything about this show - the music, the satire, the one-liners, the drama, and most of all, the insane talent.  Fellow Gleek Krystal suggested I make some Glee themed cupcakes, and got me started with a few great suggestions!I had already planned to make chocolate cupcakes, so Krystal's suggestion of a choco-diva cupcake for Mercedes jumped out at me. Mercedes is a sassy and confident member of the glee club, with the desire to be in the limelight and the talent to back it up. Befitting of her large personality, I created an over the top cupcake with definite style and intense flavors.The Mercedes Choco-Diva Cupcake combines coconut chocolate cake, coconut cream filling, and almond buttercream, with caramel and chocolate ganache drizzled on top. For extra flair, the frosting is piped in a ruffled design, inspired by Cook like a Champion.  Note: I am on a dairy-free diet for the time being, so I made the vegan chocolate cupcakes below (the perfectly domed tops at Oh She Glows convinced me I need to try her recipe - and it did not dissappoint!), but you can use your favorite chocolate cake recipe.Choco-Diva CupcakesSource: Cake and Frosting adapted from Oh She Glows, Coconut Cream filling adapted from here, Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Glaze adapted from Baking: From My Home To YoursYield: 12 cupcakesTotal time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (make the caramel first to cut down on idle time!)  IngredientsFor the cupcakes:1 cup non-dairy milk, (regular milk is fine if you aren't sensitive to dairy or following a vegan diet)1 cup evaporated cane juice1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour1/3 cup cocoa powder1 teaspoon baking soda3/4 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, dividedFor the frosting:1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery stick or equivalent, at room temperature3 cups powdered sugar, sifted1/4 teaspoon kosher salt1 teaspoon pure almond extract3 tablespoons non-dairy milk, (regular milk is fine if you aren't sensitive to dairy)For the filling:1 can coconut milk (do not use light milk)1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice, or sugarFor the caramel:1/2 cup evaporated cane juice, or sugar1 tablespoon water1 teaspoon agave nectar, or light corn syrup1/4 cup reserved coconut cream (from filling)1 teaspoon Earth Balance buttery stick or equivalent, at room temperature For the chocolate ganache glaze:2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips1/4 cup reserved coconut cream (from filling)1 tablespoon water1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice, or sugarInstructionsOne Day Ahead: Identify which end of the can of coconut milk you'll open with the can opener, and place it that-side-down in the refrigerator. It's best to chill it at least 24 hours, as this will allow the cream to separate and rise to the top. For the cupcakes:Preheat oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. With an electric or stand mixer, beat together the non-dairy milk, oil, sugar, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, almond extract in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed for one to two minutes.Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until all the clu[...]

    One Pot Meal: Baked Chicken


    One pot meals are a thing of wonder.  This especially rings true for a messy cook such as myself. Despite the fact that we have somewhere on the order of four times more counter space now than we did in our last home, I still manage to cover all the surfaces during some of my more involved cooking/baking days. I have been known to exclaim, "I don't have anywhere to put this!" only to have my husband look at me in bewilderment. In my defense, it usually involves needing my sink, which is, in my opinion, rather small for the size of our kitchen. With my parents coming to visit last Sunday for a grandson-fix, I was inspired to make this by a lonely whole chicken wasting away in our deep freezer.  This recipe is easy all around (even more-so if you get your butcher to cut up the chicken for you) and great for when you have company.  Toss all the ingredients in a roasting pan and pop it in the oven for 50 minutes.  We even used the roasting pan as the serving dish and let everyone pick out what they wanted, buffet style.  With just one dish to clean up, it allowed for less time in the kitchen and more time where it counts - with family!Simple, but classic flavorings of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and thyme make this baked chicken dish a great choice for last minute guests, or anytime you want a wholesome, comforting meal with minimal effort.Baked Chicken with Onions, Potatoes, Garlic, and ThymeSource: Slightly adapted from Everyday Food, October 2009Yield: Serves 4Preparation time: 10 minutesCook time: 50 minutesTotal time: 1 hour Ingredients1 whole chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces and breasts halved crosswise1 pound white new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)1 large red onion, cut into eighths1 head garlic, cloves separated and left unpeeled6 sprigs thyme1 lemon, quartered1 pound baby carrots1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Coarse salt and ground pepperInstructionsPreheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange chicken, potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, thyme, and lemon in a 12-by-16-inch roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar and drizzle over chicken and vegetables.Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Turn chicken skin side up. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 50 minutes.[...]

    Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes


    I recently talked about regional differences in traditional breakfast foods. With our first little one here now, we seem to be starting some breakfast traditions of our own. Once each weekend, we get up and cook a delicious breakfast together, be it biscuits and gravy, eggs with toast and hash browns, bagel sandwiches, or my favorite - pancakes! It's a nice change from a bowl of cereal or cream cheese laden bagel, and fun to prepare a meal together. We typically use my favorite pancake recipe with apples and (sometimes) cranberries, but last week I got inspired to make peanut butter banana pancakes. I'm not sure where the urge came from, but my husband sometimes slathers peanut butter in between his pancakes, so I knew he would be on board! At the last minute, chocolate chips sounded like a perfect addition, so I tossed a few into the batter.I am so happy with how these pancakes turned out. There is a great balance of the three main components, which complement each other well in every bite! Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip PancakesSource: Adapted from my favorite pancake recipeYield: Serves 4 (2 pancakes each)Preparation time: 10 minCook time: 15 minTotal time: 25 minutes Ingredients1/2 cup whole wheat flour3/4 cup oat bran1 tablespoon baking powder1 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 egg1 cup milk1 tablespoon oil1/2 cup natural peanut butter1 tablespoon honey1 banana1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chipsInstructionsAdd the peanut butter and honey to a heat-safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals on low power until mixture is softened and warm. Mash half of the banana, and slice the remaning half into 1/4 inch thick rounds, then cut the rounds into quarters. Stir the mashed banana into the peanut butter mixture.Stir together oat bran through cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, and oil; stir to mix. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stir just until mixed. Fold in peanut butter mixture, chopped banana, and chocolate chips.Heat griddle or pan, then spray with cooking spray. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto griddle, repeat with remaining batter. Heat until bubbles form at the surface and bottom is lightly browned, then flip and cook through. [...]

    Curry Shrimp with Green Beans and Soba Noodles


    A few weeks ago I mentioned one of our favorite curry recipes, and said it was one of two favorites. Today, I am bringing you the other favorite! After trying so many different recipes, this one always stood out as the best. When I went back to evaluate why, and compare all the recipes, I found that this one calls for twice the curry powder that the others do. That could definitely explain why we like this recipe so much more! As luck would have it, I wanted to make this right as we ran out of curry powder. I was due to refill some other spices, so I turned to my trusty spice store, Penzeys, for a new order. I flipped to the curry page in the catalog and was instantly overwhelmed. There were so many different kinds, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize "curry powder" was really a blend of several different spices. I thought curry powder was just - curry powder, like turmeric is just turmeric. Boy, was I wrong! I grabbed my empty curry jar and scanned the ingredient list, then picked the one in the catalog that sounded the closest and crossed my fingers as I placed the order. I chose the sweet curry powder, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. It was just the right blend for us! This is a fabulously quick, easy, one pot meal - great for a weeknight. This combination of spices is our favorite curry sauce, which I suspect we will be able to use in many other curry dishes in the future! Curry Shrimp with Green Beans and Soba NoodlesSource: Slightly adapted from The Gracious PantryYield: Serves 2-3Preparation time: 5 minCook time: 15 minTotal time: 20 minutes Ingredients1 pound frozen shrimp (peeled and deveined, tail off)1 can light coconut milk (14 oz)1 pound fresh green beans3 green onions, diced2 teaspoons garlic powder2 teaspoons onion powder1 teaspoon paprika4 teaspoons curry powder juice of 1/2 a lemon2 tablespoons cornstarch6 ounces soba noodlesInstructionsCombine all ingredients except soba noodles in a large pot or pan, cover and bring to a boil.Once you have a nice rolling boil, remove the lid and continue to cook over medium to medium-high heat.Add soba noodles and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until noodles are soft and shrimp are cooked through. [...]

    Tilapia with Lemon Pesto and Oven Roasted Tomatoes


    We've been in a fish rut for a months now. All I seem to make with our stash of frozen tilapia is fish tacos. While fish tacos are pretty darn awesome, I knew I would need to move on, eventually. For a while I could blame it on the nice weather (I'm talking last summer, here), but even in the dead of winter, I turned to that easy-to-prepare, delicious, healthy fish taco recipe. I could further blame it on the fact that most of the tilapia recipes in my queue call for breadcrumbs, and I can't find whole wheat breadcrumbs in the store. Or, I did eventually find some, but a look at the ingredient label revealed that they contained high fructose corn syrup. (In breadcrumbs? Really?) They immediately went back on the shelf. Yes, I know I can make them at home, but I'm too lazy busy to figure out how to achieve the right texture. Enter one of my favorites blogs: Elly Says Opa! This recipe caught my eye because I had some pesto to use up, and allowed me to skirt around my bread crumb debacle. This turned out to be a quick, simple way to prepare a flavorful dish! Tilapia with Lemon Pesto and Oven Roasted TomatoesSource: Elly Says Opa!Yield: Serves 2Preparation time: 10 minutesCook time: 20 minutesTotal time: 30 minutes Ingredients1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed2 teaspoons olive oil2 tablespoons pesto1 lemon2 tilapia filets salt and pepperInstructionsPreheat the oven to 425. Toss the tomatoes and the garlic with the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes.Meanwhile, juice the lemon and reserve both the juice and the juiced lemon. To the juice, add the pesto and stir to combine. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and then spread the pesto mixture on top of the fish.Take the pan of roasted garlic and tomatoes out of the oven and nestle the cut lemon into the pan. Place the tilapia on top of the lemon and tomatoes and put back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is flaky and no longer opaque. Spoon the tomatoes over the fish.[...]

    Biscuits and Sausage Gravy


    "You've never had biscuits and gravy?" My husband was shocked, but no, it was not something my parents ever made for breakfast when I was growing up. I'm from the Boston area, and breakfast was usually either cereal, various preparations of eggs, sometimes with bacon, various pastries, or the occasional loaf of Polish rye bread from Alice's Bakery in Southie. My husband is from northern California, which doesn't scream "biscuits and gravy" to me, but his mom grew up in Kansas, so that's probably where it comes from!What is standard breakfast fare in your neck of the woods?These tender, flaky biscuits are a fabulous complement to the creamy gravy, which has just the right spice from the fennel in homemade sausage.Biscuits and GravySource: Slightly adapted from Beantown Baker and Good Things CateredYield: Serves 4Preparation time: 15 minutesCook time: 12 minutesTotal time: 27 minutes Ingredients2 cups whole wheat pastry flour2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter sticks)3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)8-12 ounces chicken sausage (I chopped up 7 pre-cooked patties, which ranged from 1 to 1.5 ounces each, since that is what we had on hand)3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour2 cups milk (I used 2%) pepperInstructionsFor the biscuits: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture until the butter pieces are pea sized. Add the milk, stirring just until combined.Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar or whole wheat pastry flour. Roll out dough to 1" thick. Cut dough into rounds or other desired shape. Top each biscuit with a small cube of butter.Bake biscuits at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.For the sausage gravy: Brown sausage in a skillet. Add milk and flour to pan and whisk together to form a gravy. Add more milk to thin the consistency out, more flour to thicken the consistency. Season with pepper to taste.Serve gravy over biscuits.[...]

    Irish Soda Bread


    Despite a significant amount of Irish in my blood, I'd never had Irish soda bread until last weekend. With Saint Patrick's Day upon us, I've seen requests for this recipe everywhere, and it piqued my interest. When I first saw the (very simple) ingredient list, I thought, "What is so special about this bread?"It seemed easy enough to whip up, so that I did. My first loaf was dense and almost chewy - not good eats. This recipe turned out so much better for my second attempt, and had me singing the praises of Irish soda bread along with everyone else.This tasty bread is crisp on the outside, but so soft on the inside. The buttermilk lends great flavor to the bread - tear off a piece and enjoy with butter, jam, or just by itself! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!Irish Soda BreadSource: Slightly adapted from Cate's World KitchenYield: 1 loafPreparation time: 10 minutesCook time: 45 minutesTotal time: 55 minutesIngredients2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour1 teaspoon salt1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda (fresh is best)1 1/4 cups buttermilkInstructionsPreheat the oven to 350 F, and grease a baking sheet (or line with parchment)Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and wisk together with a fork.Stir in half the buttermilk, then add the remaining buttermilk 2 tbsp at a time. You want the dough to be just a little bit moist. It should hold together, but not be sticky. If you accidentally add too much milk, knead in some flour until the dough is no longer sticky.Shape into a ball, then cut an X into the top.Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. (If you tap on the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles, it should sound hollow).Let cool as long as you can stand to wait, then serve with butter and jam.Best if eaten within about 3 hours of baking.[...]

    Basil Chicken in a Coconut-Curry Sauce


    It's easy to get lost in the sea of recipe sources these days. There are cookbooks, family recipes tucked in a recipe box, magazines, Food Network shows, more magazines… and let's not forget all the other food blogs I have in my Google Reader. Every once in a while I think of those poor cookbooks (collecting dust), hanging around the kitchen, and find it refreshing to crack them open and rediscover the recipes waiting inside.I recently pulled out my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for some inspiration, and found plenty! I kept jumping from one page to the next, finding quite a few recipes to choose from given what ingredients I already had in the house. I was sold on this recipe, however, as soon as I saw the title. First off, it would use some basil that was dying a slow death in my refrigerator (and good basil is a terrible thing to waste). Second, I've been mildly obsessed with curry lately. In the last month, I've probably made five different curry dishes. Two have emerged as our favorites, for different reasons, and this is one of them. We love this dish because marinating the chicken in the spices allows for a nice punch of flavor. The dish is balanced by the sauce, which uses fresh garlic, onion, and ginger, and has a surprisingly subtle background of basil. Basil Chicken in a Coconut-Curry Sauce Source: Reworded from Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook Yield: Serves 4 Preparation time: 25 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes  Ingredients2 teaspoons curry powder1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon chili powder4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts1 tablespoon olive oil1 cup chopped red onion2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped5 cloves garlic, minced or grated1 can unsweetened light coconut milk (~14 ounces)1 tablespoon cornstarch3 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into ribbons1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger3 cups cooked rice (use brown rice if you are following a clean eating diet)InstructionsIn a medium bowl combine curry powder, black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the chili powder. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Add to spice mixture in bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours to allow spices to penetrate meat. Pour oil into a wok or large nonstick skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken to wok. Cook and stir for 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from wok. Repeat with remaining chicken. Add onion, jalapeno peppers, and garlic to wok; cook and stir about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir together coconut milk, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Carefully add to onion mixture in wok. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.Return chicken to wok. Stir in basil and ginger. Cook and stir about 2 minutes or until heated through. Serve over hot rice.[...]

    Vanilla Bean Cake


    In 2007 after we moved to the Chicago area, I started a job that allowed me a 4 day work week. I jumped at the chance to have that schedule, since I had a long commute and it meant saving wear and tear on my car, and making a dent in the gas bill. However, when you combine 3 day weekends + a husband with a demanding job + not being close to family or friends... you get a whole lot of free time. I dove into cooking, then blogging, then cooking groups like TWD and BB. I filled my weekends with trying new recipes and new techniques, hoping to find favorites that I could someday share with someone other than my husband. Last year we moved back to the east coast, little more than an hour from where I grew up. When it was time to plan our son's baptism, I knew right away that I wanted to make the cake. This is what I'd been working towards - years of building experience in the kitchen, so I could share the fruits of that labor with family and friends!For this cake, I pulled from some old favorites, tried new recipes, and built my first stacked cake! I was really happy with how it came out, considering how rushed I was putting it together.  The top section is a 6-inch, triple layer cake made with Beatty's Chocolate Cake (water instead of coffee, though) and chocolate mousse filling.  The bottom was a 9-inch, triple layer cake made with vanilla bean cake and raspberry filling.  I also made Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time for this cake, and loved it!  I'll be posting that recipe once I work out some kinks that I had with it.This vanilla bean cake recipe was perfect. Fluffy, moist cake with great vanilla flavor - I couldn't get enough!  This is definitely my new favorite white cake recipe.  I made 1.5 times the below recipe to have enough for three 9-inch layers.  Vanilla Bean CakeSource: Reworded from Confections of a Foodie BrideYield: Two 8 or 9-inch cake layersPreparation time: 25 minutesCook time: 45 minutesTotal time: 1 hour 10 minutesIngredients3 cups cake flour1 tablespoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 vanilla bean, split and scraped1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature2 cups sugar5 large eggs1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature2 teaspoons vanilla extractInstructionsPreheat oven to 350. Butter and line two 8-inch or 9-inch baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Split and scrape the vanilla pod into the butter, discard pod (or reserve for another use). Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown [...]

    Party Punch


    In February, we celebrated our son's baptism. Such an event brought all sides of my family together (sadly my husband's family lives clear across the country, so it's hard to attend events like this). When planning the menu, I arrived at the beverage category and things quickly got out of hand. You see, there are some polar opposites in my family. When my mom's side gets together to celebrate an event, they bring along certain friends: Caymus, Cakebread, Jameson (why not add a little Irish to your coffee?), Veuve, Van Gogh, Bud, and Coors. My dad's side? They bring out the Martinelli's. Yup - sparking apple cider is about as wild as it gets there!I created the Mom's side portion of the menu with simply red and white wine, and two types of beer. After running it past her, she thought that mimosas, espresso martinis, and a third beer offering were in order. I had to politely remind her that this was a Sunday afternoon event - no need to run the gamet on alcoholic beverages! We compromised and ended up somewhere in the middle. For the Dad's side of the menu, I found this suggestion for punch on a cooking board that I frequent. I wanted to do something other than just water and soda, and this was a fabulous choice! What are your family gatherings like? Are the offerings more like Mom's side or Dad's side?This party punch is easy to throw together, fruity with a little zing from the ginger ale. A great treat for all party guests!Party Punch Source: Ammie of Adventures in my kitchenPreparation time: 5 minIngredients2 quarts cranberry juice1 can pineapple juice (46 ounces)2 cups orange juice2 liters ginger ale1 orange, slicedInstructionsAdd all ingredients except orange slices to a large punch bowl with ice. Stir to combine. Float orange slices in punch for garnish.[...]

    Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate with Whipped Coconut Cream


    Hot chocolate is one of the most comforting winter indulgences, I think. Warm, creamy, delicious chocolate - perfect for curling up with when it's cold and snowy outside. I look forward to enjoying hot chocolate all winter long, and it's one of the only ways I truly enjoy chocolate. My husband loves it, too, and when I saw this recipe for peanut butter hot chocolate, I knew he'd be excited about it.  Chocolate and peanut butter is such a classic combination, and they marry well together in this lovely twist on classic hot chocolate. Growing up, my favorite topping was none other than the classic Fluff. I loved that stuff (well, I still do!) but it's not exactly fitting into the clean eating lifestyle. Enter: the genius happening over at The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany recently introduced her readers to a whipped cream alternative made from coconut milk. Given my recent addiction to all things curry, I had some coconut milk in stock and decided to try it out.All I can say is coconut cream = awesome. I forgot all about Fluff once I topped my hot chocolate with this heavenly stuff. I'm sure you are wondering if you can taste the coconut. I could when sampling it alone, but I skimped a bit on the honey/vanilla. Once atop the hot chocolate, I couldn't pick out the coconut at all. Just lovely, creamy deliciousness to perfectly complement more lovely, creamy deliciousness.Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate with Whipped Coconut Cream Source: Slightly adapted from Dolcetto Confections/Martha Stewart Generously serves 2 2 cups skim milk 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter 2 tablespoons sucanat 1 tablespoon whipped coconut cream In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm milk until it just begins to simmer and bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Whisk in chocolates, peanut butter, and sucanat until melted and smooth. Cover and continue warming over low heat until warmed through. For a thicker cup of cocoa, simmer hot chocolate uncovered until desired thickness is achieved. Ladle hot chocolate into individual mugs, top with whipped cream. Whipped Coconut Cream Source: Reworded from The Gracious Pantry 1 14 ounce can regular coconut milk (do not use light milk)1 tablespoon. agave or honey 1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 tablespoon coconut cream (recipe follows) 1. Identify which end of the can you'll open with the can opener (for some cans that's the bottom) and place it that-end-down in the fridge for at least a day. The longer, the better. Gently turn the can over and open it. The cream should be solid at the (now) bottom of the can, with a layer of clear liquid on top. Pour off the clear liquid (great for use in smoothies or added to juice for a tropical touch). 2. Scoop the cream out of the can and into a medium bowl. Add honey and vanilla extract. Blend or whisk together until well combined. 3. Refrigerate coconut cream for a few hours to set; it will thicken slightly when chilled.Note: If you find that even after chilling, the cream won’t stiffen up, put it into a blender with 1 package of unflavored gelatin. Let it sit out for about an hour. Once it’s thick as it should be, put it back into the fridge to chill further.[...]