Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PB&J Treats

I love the new Peanut Butter Multi Grain Cheerios.  Since, I also love Rice Krispies Treats, I was confident I could take these two loves and make a pretty sassy dessert.    So I took all my favorite things, peanut butter, peanut butter cheerios, marshmallows, and dried cranberries, and created PB & J Treats.  
6 cups Peanut Butter Cheerios
4 ½ cups marshmallows
1/2 stick butter
1 cup peanut butter

1 cup dried cranberries

  • Melt butter, marshmallows, and peanut butter in a pan.  When melted, pour over the cheerios and dried cranberries.  Stir till the melted mixture is thoroughly distributed throughout the cheerios.  Then either press mixture into a greased 13x9x2 pan, or just press out on a flat surface in the form of a rectangle.  Cut into squares and enjoy.  
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Food Photo Friday: Feb. 24th

This Food Photo Friday is for my mom.  She is a dedicated reader and avid supporter of my blog.  When I started doing Food Photo Friday, she saw a picture in Reader's Digest that she wanted me to feature.  So, when in looking for this Friday's picture on Pinterest I found the same watermelon picture, it seemed time to fitting.

In doing some research, I found that this photo was taken by Sarah Illenberger, a German photographer.  Her work tends to play stark backgrounds to offset imaginative and playfully assembled objects.  There is one photo, "See/Say Chew Before You Swallow," of pretzel dough made into tendrils.  It almost looks like an octopus but with twice as many legs.  The photo I'm featuring, "Meloncholie," is both whimsical and sad and makes you look at watermelon in quite a different way.   
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Omaha Cupcake Taste-Off

Before I moved to Nebraska, a student told me about a cupcake place, Jones Brothers, in Omaha which she had seen on Cupcake Wars.  So, when a couple of weeks ago I went in to Omaha for a job interview, I figured I deserved a treat.  

During the interview, I mentioned that I planned on going by Jones Brothers afterwards.  Although one of my interviewers responded with enthusiasm, the other said she was more of a Cupcake Island fan.  

Thus began the Omaha Cupcake Showdown.  
Truth is, I liked them both but for different reasons.  Although the two interviewers had very definitive feelings and loyalties, after trying three from each I was undecided.  Ultimately, here's my evaluation of each.  

Jones Bros:
Jones Bros is more of an overall package.  A very trendy style cafe, they offer food, desserts (homemade marshmallows, cookies, etc), wine, yogurt, and coffee.  So, you can go, hang out, and eat a wide range of sassy foods.  To give you a stronger sense of the place, it was voted an Omaha "Hot Spot" just shortly after it opened.

As cupcakes go, there is a great range; they take bolder risks with flavors.  I tried the "Salty and Sweet," "Caramel Apple," and "Strawberries and Cream."  All where really moist and decadent tasting.  The "Caramel Apple" towered with frosting and pieces of apple cooked inside, making it almost muffin like.  The best was the "Strawberries and Cream" which had real strawberries.  Overall, it was just the right amount of sweet and fluffy.  
Cupcake Island:
Cupcake Island, in comparison, is a simpler affair.  It is located in a less trendy strip mall, and is more a traditional bakery.  Instead of spreading themselves over many food arenas, they focus on cakes and cupcakes. 

The three I tried was the "Pink Champagne," "Chocolate Covered Cherry," and the "PB Cup."  In comparison, I think the cake was a little denser (although still moist), but the frosting was more satisfying.  Jones Bros has a slight aftertaste that Cupcake Island didn't have. 
Cupcake Island had my least and most favorite between both cupcakeries.  My least favorite was the "Pink Champagne."  It was light, but had no real definitive flavor.  The best was the "PB Cup."  The cupcake was a chocolate cupcake with a rich peanut butter center and cream cheese frosting--all three things that I'd want in a cupcake. 

The Bottom Line:
  • The final ranking was 1.) PB Cup; 2.) Chocolate Covered Cherry; 3.) Strawberries and Cream; 4.) Salty and Sweet; 5.) Caramel Apple; and 6.) Pink Champagne.  
  • For creative cupcakes--Jones Bros.
  • For sweet and decadent--Cupcake Island
  • For trends and atmosphere--Jones Bros.
  • For classic bakery--Cupcake Island
  • Best Frosting--Cupcake Island
  • Best Cake--Jones Bros. 

Cupcake Island on Urbanspoon

Jones Bros Cupcakes on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bacon and Chili Oil Chocolate Torte

I really like the idea of chocolate and bacon, but I have had a hard time finding it combined in a way I liked. My first exposure was in the Vosges candy bar.  The idea seemed antithetical yet exciting, but the candy bar just still felt like eating bacon and chocolate--the two just didn't come together.  The bacon didn't compliment the chocolate; the chocolate didn't make the the bacon better. 

I had faith, though, that the two could, and would, come together.  So for Valentine's Day, the day of chocolate and decadent excess, I tried my hand at a union between bacon and chocolate.  My hunch was that it needed a go-between flavor to help bridge the rather large gap between smoky and salty to sweet and creamy.  I kicked around coconut milk, cinnamon, peanut butter (which I still might try at some point).  Finally, I remembered a torte from Paul Gayler's cookbook, The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook, that made a chocolate torte with chili oil.  To me, chili oil (like the black pepper in Vosges candy bar) could be a key to bringing bacon and chocolate together because chili/heat is such a compatible flavor to both.  The other thought I had was to help complete the combination of salty, sweet, and spicy, by bringing in a little tart to balance the palate.

And so, the Bacon and Chili Oil Chocolate Torte was born.  
Bacon and Orange Zest Crust
1 cup chocolate wafers crumbs
¼ cup walnuts
4 strips (1/3 cup) bacon, diced
2 tsp. orange zest (about 1 orange)
1 tablespoon grated dark chocolate
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup salted melted butter
Pinch salt
Pinch red pepper flakes 


  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  When it is hot, add the bacon and 1 tbls. of the brown sugar.  Keep the bacon moving around until it is cooked and crispy.  Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Then, in the same pan, brown the walnuts (about 5 minutes of stirring continually).
  2. In a food processor, add walnuts, cookies, and bacon.  Process until all are in very fine crumbs. 
  3. Place the walnuts, cookie and bacon crumbs  in a large mixing bowl.  Add orange zest, grated chocolate, the other tablespoon of brown sugar, butter, salt, and pepper flakes.  Stir until it forms a loose mixture. 
  4. Scoop mixture into a 9-in pie pan and mold into a pie crust.  With a fork, make pricks in the crust to allow air to escape.  Place in a 350°F oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Set aside and let cool. 
Chocolate and Chili Oil Filling 
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp chili oil
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt


  1. In a pot over medium-low heat, bring milk and cream to a gentle simmer.  Then, remove from burner and stir in the chocolate, chili oil, and salt.  When the chocolate is melted, add a little bit of the mixture to a bowl in which you have beaten the eggs.  Keep whisking to keep the eggs from cooking.  Now that the temperature of the eggs is warm, add the egg mixture into the pan with the milk and chocolate.  Keep whisking until the mixture is completely incorporated.
  2. Add filling to the chocolate and bacon crumb shell.  Place in a 325°F oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until chocolate is set. 
  3. When the pie is finished cooking, remove from oven and let cool.  Once cool, add some Himalayan pink salt on the top. 

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Meatballs in a Bread Bowl

My timing is a little off, but today's post and Wednesday's post are meant to be a Valentine's Day dinner sequence for a special guy in your life.  The "Dried Cranberry and Walnut Encrusted Fish" recipe I developed for Very Good Recipes is a great quick, easy, light Valentine's Day meal.  But, if you are looking for something heartier, today's post is a little more labor intensive and is a meaty-carb fest.
The Meatball recipe comes from Tyler’s Ultimate.  I decreased the amount of meat, substituted a red onion for a white one, added arugula and red pepper flakes, added an extra egg, and substituted feta for mozzarella.  Below is also a red sauce recipe that incorporates the arugula.   

Because I did this on Sunday, I made my own bread bowls (three parts white; one part wheat flour) by using the Tassajara Bread Book recipe I normally use.  After the second rising, I divided the dough into four equal parts and baked them for about 30 minutes.  For this step, you can easily purchase large rolls in the store. 

Extra-virgin olive oil
½ red onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove., diced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup arugula, chopped
1 cup milk
4 slices of stale bread, crumbled up in small pieces
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
2 large eggs
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup of feta
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup red wine 

olive oil
½ red onion, finely diced 
Any leftover meatballs that broke apart during browning
2 tablespoon parsley
½ cup shredded arugula 
½ cup red wine 
1 28-oz can of plum tomatoes in liquid 
2 tbls. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper

  • Drizzle some olive oil into a medium-sized pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.   Then, add the arugula and parsley, sauteing until the greens are wilted.  Set aside to cool. 
  • While the mixture is cooling, put the milk and stale bread in a bowl to let the bread soak. 
  • In a large bowl, mix together pork, beef, eggs, cheeses, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. When cool, add the onion and arugula mixture.  Then, with your hand, squeeze the milk out of the stale bread.  Add the bread to the meat.  Blend everything together with a spoon or your hands to get all the ingredients distributed. 
  • With an ice-cream scoop, scoop the meat into round balls.  Set the molded meatballs on plate.  
  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add half of the meatballs and brown.  This will take a couple of minutes on each side.  When the meatballs are brown, remove to an ovenproof dish.  Brown the second batch and add to the ovenproof pan.
  • Add 1/2 cup wine to the meatballs to give them some liquid to cook in.  Then, place the pan of meatballs in a 350°F oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes. 
  • While the meatballs are baking, in a medium pot over medium-high heat drizzle some olive oil.  Saute the onions until brown. Then, add any meat from meatballs that broke apart (I was using a cast iron skillet, so I lost about three meatballs to sticking).  Cook the meat until brown.  Next, toss in parsley and arugula and cook until wilted. 
  • Pour in the red wine to de-glaze the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Once you have all the brown bits up, add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper flakes.  
  • When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover with the lid.  Cook until the meatballs are finished baking in the oven.  Then, with a hand wand, puree the tomatoes. Turn off the heat under the sauce. 
  • Add the meatballs into the tomato sauce.  Let set a couple of minutes, then spoon meatballs and sauce into the hollowed out bread bowls. 


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Friday, February 10, 2012

Food Photo Friday: Feb. 9th

As I mentioned last week, I am serving as a judge in a "Be My Valentines" recipe contest for Very Good Recipes.  So for this Food Photo Friday, I wanted to feature a picture from one of the contest participants to help get some interest in the contest as well as show off a really fantastic food photo. 

The photo comes from the blog, The Way to His Heart, written by Maeghan.  In asking Maeghan about her blog, she talked about how the tagline, "recipes to fall in love with," has two means.  It has the literal meaning as well as her commitment to recipes that she can cook for everyday life to bring happiness and joy to her husband, daughter, and friends.  What a great statement to the potential for food.  

Maeghan also wrote to me that she doesn't differentiate between "fancy" and "comforting" when it comes to recipes, because "Good food is comforting, point blank."  I couldn't agree more!  

The photo is from her "Be My Valentine" submission for "Heart Shaped Thin Mints."  With Valentine's Day coming up, it is beautiful photo to reminds us of the sweet seduction that comes with Valentine's Day.  I thought her picture nicely balances the dark chocolate and white background with the little hint of red in the middle.  It makes for such a lush and sexy looking picture. 

Thanks for sharing your picture, Maeghan! And please check out the "Be My Valentine" contest.   
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Picture Featured on Tastespotting

My "One Base: Two Scones" picture was just accepted to Tastespotting!  I guess I learned something from all those great Food Photo Friday pictures I've been featuring. 

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Dough, Two Bread Roll-Ups

I made up a batch of pizza/focaccia dough on Saturday to have something warm to munch on during the big blizzard that swept the Plains.  In Lincoln, we got a foot and I was glad to have a warm blanket to snuggle under instead of having to venture outdoors.

The focaccia recipe I have makes a good size batch, so I've started making it and then refrigerating half the dough.  This works as long as the dough in the refrigerator is wrapped in saran wrap or is in a very airtight container.  If it isn't, then the outside of the dough gets a really thick skin and so won't form correctly.

Last night, I was mainly eating out leftovers, but wanted something warm and doughy because it was a kind of warm and doughy night.  Luckily, I had the other half of focaccia dough chilling in the frig.  Only problem, did I want sweet or savory?  After debating for a while, I decided why make Sophie's Choice.  So, I split the leftover dough in half and experimented.

Experiment 1: Cheesy Pepperoni Bread
For this concoction, I stretched out the dough as much as I could in a large rectangle.  Then, I topped it with cheese, pepperonis, and red pepper flakes.  Next, I rolled it once along the first row of pepperoni, and then again to seal it, trapping all the cheese and  pepperoni goodness in the layers of squishy white dough.
Experiment 2: Fig Butter Roll-Up
For my sweet bread, I again stretched out the dough into a large rectangle.  I smeared a large glob of Fig Butter, scattered on craisins and almonds, and then sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon.  I rolled this one up (forming more of a circle because there are no pepperonis to work around) and pushed it a little flat.  Then, the bread roll got a healthy lavishing of brown sugar butter on top to make it a little sweeter. 
 Both bread rolls went into a 425°F oven for 15 minutes and came out steamy and squishy.  Both were good for their own reasons, but the fig butter was particularly satisfying--nutty, sweet, rich.  Just what I wanted to end a night with.  
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Gluttony

I can’t claim to be a fan of the Super Bowl.  I can claim to be a fan of Super Bowl food.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I like to just go where the food and friends are.  This year, I’m spending my first Super Bowl living with a major football fan.  Although this might have inspired me to go all out, making a huge spread to signify the date, I instead just gave into a day of low on the foodie chain fare: beer, potato chips and dip, chicken wings, and frozen pizza.  No fuss.  Lots of muss. 

Isn’t the binge really the point of Super Bowl Sunday?  Binging on sports.  Binging on male comraderie.  Binging on over-budget commercials and even more over-budget commercial slots.  I’m from a family of people who didn’t ever watch football.  Yet, I remember my dad having Super Bowl parties for the youth groups in which spreads of food and bowls of chili were passed around with gusto. I more recently have found out more about football from playing touch football with my boyfriend and his friends, but I still don’t really know enough to watch the Super Bowl with intrigue and insight.  Still, I’ve been to many a Super Bowl party.  Why?  Why not?

In the middle of February, with cold air and post Christmas food binging repentance keeping the ewie-gooie and fatty-fried as far away as possible, don’t we all need a reason to just have a day to stop battling the bulge? 
Over Super Bowl weekend, Americans will eat 1.25 billion wings.  We will have drunk 325.5 million gallons of beer.  Balance that with 13.2 million pounds of guacamole, 8 million pounds of popcorn, and 28 million pounds of potato chips.  One bakery even created a Chicken Wing Cupcake with cornbread, bleu cheese frosting, and, yes, a chicken wing to bring it all together. If that isn't a sign of America giving into the joy of gluttony, then I don't know what else is. 
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