Blueberry Coffee Cake

Low-fat and baking: two words that should not be adjacent. Although I consider myself a heath-nut and maintain quite healthy eating habits, I find myself hesitant to bake anything labeled low fat. Okay, so I might eat them, but I would probably avoid serving others “healthy” muffins or coffee cake, especially if they came from my kitchen.

Lucky for me, Ellie Krieger’s blueberry coffee cake not only satisfies my healthy criteria, but also appeases my family’s discerning palate.

I made this coffee cake the other morning to take to work, but I convinced my dad to taste it just to make sure…I need to keep up my reputation, you know. Fortunately, he gave the thumbs up. Granted, I believe he said it was good for a “low-fat” coffee cake, but he sure ate the whole piece. And surprisingly, I received quite the handful of compliments. Not to brag or anything…

Whole-wheat flower, blueberries, and walnuts boost the overall nutrition factor of this coffee cake, but even with barely any butter or oil, the cake is considerably moist. Not too sweet, this coffee cake might just find itself a regular guest at the breakfast table.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
From: Ellie Krieger

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 cup fresh blueberries, or frozen and thawed

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, the baking soda and salt.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter and oil until fluffy. If necessary, use the back of a spoon to press out any lumps in the brown sugar.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla and yogurt.
  5. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, stirring until just combined.
  6. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the batter and top with the blueberries, gently pressing them into the batter. Spoon the rest of the batter into the pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture over the cake, pressing gently.
  7. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  8. Let cool slightly and then unmold and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Cut the cake into 2-inch squares.

Chile Lime Crab Salad with Tomato and Avocado

The cover recipe from Food and Wine? Not too shabby…especially considering the recipe comes from one of the “Best New Chefs.” Well, truthfully, we slightly adapted the recipe to accommodate for my mom and I, neither of us wanting to indulge in multiple ladles of olive oil. Still, we attempted to turn our plates into works of art.

And who can resist a plate of crab and avocado, two of the most luxurious ingredients (at least of the ingredients that show up in my house) that I can think of? So fresh and yet so rich. I think our satisfaction definitely justified the grocery bill, as lump crap meat is by no means easy on the pocketbook.

Chile Lime Crab Salad with Tomato and Avocado
From: Food and Wine Magazine, July 2008
Note: Instead of using sliced tomatoes as the base for the avocado and crab, we chopped the tomato and mixed it with the avocado.

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2-½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon very finely chopped jalapeno
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
½ tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound lump crabmeat, picked over
1-½ Hass avocados, diced (1/2 inch)
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into four 1/2-inch-thick slices
Tortilla chips, for serving

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice with the olive oil, jalapeno, chopped cilantro, honey and garlic. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the crab with 3 tablespoons of the dressing and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, gently toss the avocado with the red onion and 2 tablespoons of the dressing; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place a tomato slice on each plate and season with salt. Top with the avocado and the crab and garnish with the cilantro. Drizzle the remaining dressing on top and serve with tortilla chips.

Blondies

My blog is unbalanced. Originally, I envisioned a better balance between savory and sweet…but I think sweet is slightly ahead. I do have a few delicious meals to blog about, but I am more excited about these blondies!

Mary Kathryn had quite the day yesterday—the kind that clearly needs to end with something buttery and warm. She’s been talking about these “amazing” blondies that she had a few weeks back, so I figured I would take a stab at them.

As it turns out, the only plain blondies recipe I could find was in the Williams-Sonoma Cookie Cookbook. Luckily, the recipe was super easy, and jazzed it up a bit with a little chocolate drizzle. The blondies turned out rather well, and I might even make them again for our BBQ today!

Blondies

From: Williams-Sonoma Cookies

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, line the bottom with parchment (baking) paper, and grease the parchment.
  2. Sift the flour and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper, and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and brown sugar. Heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook about 1 minute longer; the mixture will bubble but not boil. Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla to the cooled sugar mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Sprinkle the sifted flour and salt over the sugar mixture and stir until just blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a spatula and smoothing the top. Bake until the center is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Do not overbake. Transfer the pan to a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
  6. Run a small knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cookie. Invert onto the rack, lift off the pan, and then carefully peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely on the rack before cutting into 2-inch squares.

The Cupcake Craze

The world is obsessed with cupcakes.

Well, that might be an exaggeration. Originally, I was under the impression the whole cupcake craze was exclusive to Southern California. When I first went down to school, I seriously felt surrounded by cupcakes. Really. Cupcakes on every corner. But, apparently the cupcakes followed me home to NorCal. Sprinkle’s Cupcakes is opening in Stanford Shopping Center, Kara’s Cupcakes is opening in Santana Row, and I’ve made cupcakes at least three times already this summer, possibly more.

Obsession or not, cupcakes are one trend I cannot complain about. They’re easy to share, transportable, cute…

And, not to mention, 100-calorie packs are to boxes of crackers as cupcakes are to regular cakes. Pre-portioned goodness.

I started scheming about these cupcakes about a week ago with a few crazy ideas in mind, but ultimately returned to the family favorite: deep dark chocolate cake (in cupcake form, of course). Normally I would turn to my trusty chocolate frosting recipe, but for a little twist (although admittedly not too exciting) I tried a vanilla frosting. Sure, I’d like to make picture-perfect, pastry case-worthy cupcakes, but when it’s after 10pm and you have to get up at 6am, a bit of piping and sprinkles were ambitious enough.

Although my cupcakes might not win any awards, I still think they are pretty darn spiffy.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Note: I have no idea where this recipe actually came from. I apologize if I am not giving credit where credit is due.

1-¾ cups flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

½ cup oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup hot water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. To the dry ingredients, add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Stir in the hot water.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Vanilla Frosting

From: The back of the powdered sugar box (kinda lame, I know)

1 lb. box Powdered Sugar

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick butter (softened)

1. Using an electric mixer, beat all of the ingredients, scraping the bowl often.

Three Cheese Bread (aka: cheesy bread)

If you make this bread, the number of friends you have will increase exponentially.

If you make this bread for a party, you are guaranteed to get an invitation to the next big bash.

Seriously, this bread is a hunk of cheesy, greasy heaven. It’s super simple to make, but the crosshatch pattern that creates the little fingers just makes it party food; all the guests immediately dive in and then bond as they hold their messy hands in the air while searching for napkins. A family friend gave us the recipe several years back, and I could not even tell you the number of times I have made it. My friends kindly informed me last night that I could easily assemble the bread and mail it unbaked directly to their dorm rooms at school. Right…

Admittedly, I cannot take credit for the first picture on this post; Mary Kathryn traded her photography services for my cooking services. Not a bad deal.

Three Cheese Bread (aka: cheesy bread)

1 round of Sourdough Bread
1-½ cups freshly grated cheese (combination of Swiss, Gruyere, Parmesan)
¾ cup butter, softened
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
kosher salt
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
red pepper flakes

  1. Blend butter, salt, and garlic in a small food processor.
  2. Add the grated cheese and blend until just combined.
  3. Slice the bread about 1-inch apart and again at 90° making a checker board-type pattern. Cut as low as you can get without cutting the bread apart.
  4. Spread/cram the cheese mixture between the cut faces of the bread. Sprinkle a little extra grated cheese on top.
  5. Place the bread on a cookie sheet and bake at 365° for about 25 minutes or until the cheese looks thoroughly melted and the top of the bread is golden brown.
  6. On a large serving platter, pour a thin base of olive oil and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.
  7. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on the oil and vinegar base.
  8. When the bread comes out of the oven, place on the platter.
  9. Make sure that the platter is large enough so you can dip the bread chunks easily in the oil and vinegar mix.

Pizza!!

My brother is my hardest critic. Home alone with him after spending the week eating at every major chain restaurant, I wanted to cook something from my own kitchen. Knowing every ingredient in my dinner somehow comforts me…no unknown additives or preservatives or, well, who knows what.

The answer? Homemade pizza!

When I told my brother the plan, I promised him we could order take out if I failed to execute. Although I have used yeast a handful of times, it never fails to intimidate me. What if it doesn’t rise? What if I kill it? What if it doesn’t activate? What if it just tastes disgusting after all of that time and effort? But, as I found out with my pizza dough, the risk is worth it.

Out of the five-star-rated recipes on foodnetwork.com for pizza dough, I chose the one that took the least amount of time. Luckily, my brother got home late from soccer practice, so I finished on time.

I ended up making four small pizzas, each with different toppings. For my personal pie, I chose to replicate my favorite pizza from Paxtis Pizza with sautéed spinach, artichoke hearts, red onion, and mushrooms. While the dough was rising, I sautéed the garlic and spinach in a nonstick skillet until the spinach was completely wilted so it would be ready when I needed it. The Empire Taproom—one of our family’s favorite restaurants—makes an absolutely amazing pizza with sausage, red onion, and red pepper. Consequently, I felt those toppings were appropriate for my brother. The third pizza was a sauce-less pizza, with fresh tomatoes, cheese, fresh basil, and fresh garlic. And the final pizza: cheese.

Well…If I can make a dinner my brother will not only happily eat once, but also potentially eat again, I think I can claim success.

Pizza Dough
From: foodnetwork.com, Wolfgang Puck
Note: I used regular baking sheets instead of a pizza stones and sprinkled them with cornmeal.

1 package active dry or fresh yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water, 105-115 degrees
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

Toppings of your choice

In a small bowl, dissolved the yeast and honey in ¼ cup warm water.

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining ¾ cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes. (The pizza dough can also be made in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice, add the remaining ingredients, and process until the dough begins to form a ball.)

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).

Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F.

To prepare each pizza, dip the ball of dough into flour, shake off the excess flour, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface, and start to stretch the dough. Press down on the center, spreading the dough in an 8-inch circle, with the outer border a little thicker than the inner circle. If you find this difficult to do, use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough. Lightly brush the inner circle of the dough with oil and arrange the topping of your choice over the inner circle.

Using a lightly floured baker’s peel or a rimless flat baking tray, slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza into and out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Serve immediately.

Here are the toppings that I used for each pizza. I didn’t list the exact amount of each ingredient I used, partially because I failed to keep track and partially because I believe any experienced pizza eater can handle it ☺ (I have to admit, due to the interest of time…I took advantage of Trader Joe’s)

Pizza 1:
Trader Joe’s Pizza Sauce
Sauteed spinach and garlic
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded four-cheese blend
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
Canned artichoke hearts
Sliced red onion
Sliced mushrooms

Pizza 2:
Trader Joe’s Pizza Sauce
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded four-cheese blend
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian turkey sausage (I pre-cooked it in a sauté pan ahead of time)
Sliced red onion
Sliced red bell pepper

Pizza 3:
Fresh tomatoes
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded four-cheese blend
Fresh garlic
Fresh basil

Pizza 4:
Trader Joe’s Pizza Sauce
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded four-cheese blend
Trader Joe’s pre-shredded mozzarella cheese

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies

All brownies are not created equal. My search for the perfect brownie is far from over, but these Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies will definitely stay in my repertoire.

In a perfect world, my brownies would be 1 inch thick, dark chocolate, chewy and fudgy—and not because I pulled them out of the oven 10 minutes too early—and complete with chocolate chunks.

Still, the Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies must have been at least somewhat tasty considering my brother and his friends finished them off without any problems. Plus, they were quite easy to bake. I started after dinner (before my mom could stop me) and finished relatively quickly (and the mess was definitely manageable). Not to shabby…

Deep Chocolate Brownies
From:
Gourmet, June 2008

2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 13-by 9-inch baking pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a 3-qt heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Whisk together four, cocoa powder, and salt, then whisk into chocolate mixture until combined.

Spread in pan and bake until a pick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool Completely.