Pot of Gold Cupcakes

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY!

It’s that time of year when everything goes green in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. What was once simply a religious feast day back in the 17th century has somehow evolved into a grand celebration of Irish culture.

Of all the Irish myths that exist, the story of the leprechauns and their pots of gold, seems to have infiltrated American culture the most. There are many old European stories describing fictitious creatures that hoard treasures. In Irish folklore, fairies put a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow with leprechaun’s guarding it.

These moist cupcakes use fresh avocado in the batter then are filled with raspberry filling & topped with a lime cream cheese frosting. I think they definitely make a real ‘pot of gold’ treasure fitting for St Patrick’s Day.

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Pot of Gold Cupcakes
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
Avocado Cupcakes
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Avocado Cupcakes
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin pan with 8 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder & sugar. Add butter to dry ingredients & rub in until it resembles crumbs.
  3. In a blender. place avocado, egg, milk & lime juice; blend until creamy & smooth. Stir into flour mixture until JUST mixed.
  4. Divide batter between the 8 paper cups. Bake 20-25 minutes or until they test done. Remove from oven & allow to cool before filling & frosting.
Lime Frosting
  1. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream avocado with butter & cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the lime juice & vanilla. Add milk as needed until frosting is light & fluffy. Beat on medium spread for 5 minutes.
Assembly
  1. When cupcakes are cool, cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcakes with a sharp knife. Fill a piping bag, fitted with an opening that the raspberry will pass through. Pipe filling into each cupcake. Cut a small piece (of cake) from your cake 'cones' & place over filling.
  2. Fill another piping bag (fitted with a star end). Pipe a swirl of lime frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle your little 'pots of gold' with some gold pearls & lime zest if you wish.

Stuffed Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Stuffed mushrooms are one of those items that can be an appetizer as well as a main course. They are as versatile as you can get. The number of different fillings are endless and can be anything from a simple bread stuffing to seafood, veggies or any kind of meat.

Portobello mushrooms are big, meaty and the ideal vessel for stuffing, creating a dish that is a meal unto itself. Few things can match the flavor of stuffed mushrooms.

Depending on the source, this unique dish has been around since the late 19th century or early 20th century. The fact that they resemble stuffed zucchini, it is likely that the Italians should receive credit for their creation.

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Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Instructions
Mushrooms
  1. Trim stems from mushrooms & finely chop them; reserve for sauce. Whisk the egg lightly in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, paprika & garlic salt.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high. Dip the mushrooms in the egg then in the flour mixture. Coat the outside of the mushrooms, trying not to get too much flour inside the 'cap'.
  3. In a skillet, fry mushrooms on both sides until lightly golden. Use a tongs to help fry the sides as well. Remove mushrooms to a plate. To the skillet, add a splash of water & Swiss chard leaves. Sprinkle with salt & pepper & saute until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Divide cream cheese between the 4 mushroom caps. Top with wilted Swiss chard; sprinkle with grated Parmesan & paprika. Set aside, keeping warm.
Sauce
  1. In a skillet , heat oil. Add onion & cook for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add reserved mushroom stems, garlic, oregano, paprika, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers & zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring with a spatula. Add wine (or chicken broth) & allow to bubble for 2 minutes then add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the cream & Parmesan cheese into the sauce, then nestle the mushrooms on top. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Nice to serve with pasta or potatoes and/or a meat item.

Limoncello Mini Cakes

Nothing says spring more than the zesty, fresh flavor of lemons. Just to kick it up a notch, I decided to make some limoncello desserts.

Limoncello, (pronounced lee-mon-CHAY-low) the Italian lemon liqueur, is known for its refreshing sweet and tangy flavor. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol and sugar. Although, traditionally served as an after dinner drink, it is a wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and baking.

Limoncello origins are disputed. Some say it was created by monks or nuns while others credit the wealthy Amalfi Coast families or even local townsfolk. In any case, its roots are in Southern Italy, primarily along Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the Sorrentine Peninsula known for their meticulous lemon cultivation. These lemons are considered the finest lemons for making limoncello. Prized for their yellow rinds, intense fragrance, juicy flesh and balanced acid.

Some years ago, while travelling in Italy, Brion & I tasted athentic limoncello in the town of Sorrento. As we walked through the quaint artisan shops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, we came accross one that sold liqueurs & confectionery. One of the treats that they made were limoncello sugar coated almonds … to die for!

Today’s little cakes use limoncello not only in the cake but the frosting and glaze as well. Definitely gives them some spring zing!

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Limoncello Mini Cakes
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Course dessert
Servings
mini cakes
Ingredients
Limoncello Cakes
Limoncello Glaze
Course dessert
Servings
mini cakes
Ingredients
Limoncello Cakes
Limoncello Glaze
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter & flour 4 mini bundt pans.
  2. In a small bowl, cream butter & sugar; add egg & mix well. Fold in the flour then add milk & limoncello; beat well. Spoon mixture into the bundt pans & bake for 18 minutes or until they test done. Allow to cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, beat together butter, cream cheese & limoncello (if using). Add powdered sugar & mix until smooth.
Limoncello Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, lemon zest & egg. Cook until sugar dissolves & the mixture turns light in color, about 2 minutes. Stir in limoncello & cook for about 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat & whisk in butter. Cover with plastic wrap & cool before using.
Assembly
  1. Place cakes on a serving plate. Fill the center indentation from the bundt pan with glaze as well as glazing the tops. Place frosting in a piping bag with a tip that has a small hole. Pipe frosting to look like lemon slices.

Pumpkin Dinner Buns

Autumn is in full swing with all its fabulous foliage and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. For Canadians, this holiday is linked to the tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia or horn filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘horn of plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Pumpkins, turkeys, ears of corn and large displays of food are used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

The ‘flavor of fall’ always brings pumpkin to mind (or butternut squash) for me. Since there are only two days left before our Thanksgiving day, when we will stir, boil, grate & grease our way to a table filled with wonderful food. While everyone has their own traditions and ‘must eat’ dishes, these pumpkin yeast buns are a perfect compliment to this autumn feast.

Lightly sweet and beautifully light and fluffy, this recipe can be made in two ways. One as a dinner bun to have with the main course and two as a cream cheese filled sweet roll for breakfast.

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Pumpkin Dinner Buns
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Course Main Dish
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
Pumpkin Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to rise for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, brown sugar, butter, salt, spices, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, knead for about 2-3 minutes. Divide into 16 equal pieces, shaping into balls. For 16 buns you will need about 16-90 cm pieces of kitchen thread. Tie thread around the dough ball in a way that the ball is divided into 8 parts. Do not tie the ball too tightly as it will continue to rise a lot more during the second proofing & baking. Cover the pumpkin shaped dough balls with a tea towel & set aside to proof until buns have doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
For FILLED Buns
  1. In a small bowl, beat together filling ingredients. Follow directions above. At the point where you have divided the dough into 16 pieces, fill each one with some cream cheese filling ( I had divided my filling into 16 portions to make it easy). Gather the corners together to form a ball. Follow tying directions in above instructions to form the pumpkin effect. Cover & allow to rise until doubled in size.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each roll with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Brush rolls with melted butter. Allow buns to cool completely before cutting thread to remove it. Insert pecan pieces to mimic a pumpkin stem.
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have the time to do all this tying, place the dough balls onto the lined baking tray about 3-4 cm apart. Gently flatten the balls a little. Dip the tip of a scissors into oil. Cut the dough into 'petals' to form the pumpkin look. After they are baked, insert a piece of pecan or even use pumpkin seeds to make the stems.

Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones

What to call it — an omelette, frittata or quiche? While this trinity of brunch egg dishes all contain eggs, the preparation methods vary. All are delicious but here’s what defines them.

The traditional French omelette contains eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. The briskly whipped eggs are cooked in clarified butter then turned out of the pan when still a little custardy and unset. These (colorless) omelettes are rolled up like a business letter and served with only a few herbs. In North America, we seem to want to ‘clean out the fridge’ so to speak, adding just about anything and everything. This version is cooked until mostly dry on top and golden on the bottom. As a rule, they are folded over once, then served.

Frittatas are generally thicker than omelettes. The ingredients are mixed in, instead of sprinkled on. While started on the stove, sometimes they are finished under the broiler then served in slices like a pie.

Quiche, on the other hand, is a savory custard baked in a pastry crust or a potato crust. Quiche gets its richness from the addition of whole milk, half & half or even heavy cream. Just to add another twist to the mix — enter the ‘crustless quiche-omelette’.

This particular meal at our house, was one of those ‘clean out the fridge’ ideas that turned out absolutely wonderful. I had posted the salmon/dill scones on a blog a number of years ago. They made an ideal compliment for this meal.

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Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
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Instructions
Baked Omelette
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked but not real crisp; dry on paper towel & crumble. Add onions, mushrooms & garlic to skillet, sauteing in bacon drippings until tender crisp. Chop tomato & 1 avocado. Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Add all prepared ingredients; gently stir.
  3. Pour mixture into pie plate distributing evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating once half way through. Let omelette cool for 5 minutes. Top with remaining sliced avocado & serve.
Salmon/Dill Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. In a bowl, mix together flour & baking powder. Add grated cheese, smoked salmon & dill. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk & oil.
  2. Place half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir well. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients & mix until completely combined. Spoon into paper liners until each is filled halfway, then place a heaping tsp of cream cheese in the middle of each scone. Divide the rest of the batter between the 8 cups.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.

Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

Boxed instant pudding mixes have become an ingredient in many recipes from cake, cookies and pie to trifle and salad. In 1975, a salad recipe was developed by Kraft Kitchens, using two of their products, jell-o instant pistachio pudding and Cool Whip. It was called ‘Pistachio Pineapple Delight’. It seems though, that a forerunner to this salad was one using a lime jell-o powder instead of a pistachio pudding mix.

The lime gelatin / pineapple combination evolved over at least four decades. Research shows the salad on a menu in 1931 as well as another recipe from 1948 that contained NO marshmallows. In 1957, a pineapple pie recipe was printed with a filling made from the same ingredients as the salad.

This particular salad was a huge favorite of our family when I was growing up. One year, family friends that had been invited to Christmas dinner, asked if this salad had something to do with our German heritage because it always appeared on special occasions. It is hard to figure out where this dish belongs — dessert or salad? The fact that it is not so sweet you can get away with having it as a side dish but at the same time, it could also be enjoyed as a light dessert.

I have to be honest, I like both versions — lime or pistachio. Just for something different, I’m using the pistachio pudding mix in cookies and giving them a chocolate cream cheese center.


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Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

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Chocolate Filling

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Ingredients
Chocolate Filling

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Instructions
Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add the egg & extracts; combine then stir in flour & dry pudding mix. Combine well but do not over mix.

  2. Form dough into 1 1/2-inch balls then roll in finely chopped pecans. Place on cookie sheet; make a thumbprint indentation on the top of each cookie. Bake for about 10-11 minutes; remove from oven & press each indent again, slightly. Remove to wire rack & cool.

Chocolate Filling
  1. While cookies are baking, Combine cream cheese & butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa powder & vanilla; beat until very creamy. If filling is to thick add a bit of milk to get the desired consistency. Divide filling between cooled cookies. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Cherry Chai Cheesecake Bites

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

It seems one of the most common symbols associated with Valentine’s Day are heart shapes, used to decorate cards, gift boxes, wrapping paper, cakes, cookies, candies, etc. etc. In April 2016, I had posted a blog reminiscing about a memory I had from the fifties. It referred back to the ‘invention’ of the ‘cut-up’ cakes. One of these was a heart-shaped cake covered in Baker’s Angel Flake coconut and decorated with some of those little spicy, cinnamon heart candies. Here’s a tidbit of ‘red hot’ info I found interesting.  In the 1930’s, Ferrara Pan Candy Company (USA) created the famous ‘Red Hot” candies, otherwise known as cinnamon hearts, using the cold panned candy method. This process involved building candy pieces from candy centers and tossing them into revolving pans while adding flavor, color and other candy ingredients. This process continues until the pieces become the desired size.

Brion loves these hot, spicy little hearts. It seems if he has some once a year that satisfies the craving which is probably more nostalgic than anything. Of course if there are a few too many around, there are numerous vintage recipes using them such as applesauce, apple pie, jell-o and so on.

In keeping with Valentines Day, I wanted to do something with the color red and add a little spiciness of my own.                                                                                                   Here you have it CHERRY CHAI CHEESECAKE BITES!

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Cherry Chai Cheesecake Bites
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 12 mini muffin pans with cooking spray or use a mini cheesecake pan with the removable bottoms.
  2. In a blender of food processor, finely crush the gingersnap cookies. Transfer to a large mixing bowl & add melted butter. Mix well. Spoon about 1 Tbsp crumb mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press to create a mini 'pie crust'.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice. Using a mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth & creamy. Divide filling between the 12 'cups'.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove & let cool for 5 minutes or so. Run a knife around edges to loosen cheesecakes; carefully flip the tins over to remove cheesecakes from pans.
  5. To Serve: Place cheesecake bites on serving dish. Top with cherry pie filling (about 2 cherries each).
Recipe Notes
  • Recipe was adapted from cookingcontestcentral.com

Amigos Birthday

Today, December 21st, ‘our’ precious little Amigo is having his 14th birthday. Technically he belongs to my sister Loretta, who adopted him when he was only two months old. If you are a dog lover and have ever been in the presence of a Dachshund, you will understand how easily they can ‘velcro’ themselves onto your heart. Brion and I are accepted by him as if we were his aunt and uncle, so I guess you could call us part of his ‘pack’.

The antics of a Dachshund are priceless. During visits to our house he could come up with all kinds of games. One such game was to put his ball in a chosen spot then sit, out of sight, patiently waiting and watching to see how long it would take you to find it.

To be loved by a Dachshund is truly a privilege of a lifetime never to be taken lightly.

For today’s blog recipe, I thought it would be nice to have roasted chicken breast with a savory-sweet stuffing of apricot and brie, accompanied with small roasted potatoes.

                                       HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO AMIGO!

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Apricot & Brie Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a plastic bag, combine potatoes, olive oil, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic & lemon zest; toss well. Place on a foil lined large baking sheet & roast for 10 minutes.
Chicken Breast/Stuffing
  1. Place walnuts, 1 cup fresh basil & garlic in food processor; slowly add 1 Tbsp olive oil until mixture becomes paste-like. Next add brie, cream cheese & egg to the food processor & pulse until mixed well. Season with salt, pepper & pepper flakes.
  2. Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & carefully flatten with a meat mallet. Divide stuffing between the 4 breasts. Roll up or fold over, enclosing filling well. In a small bowl, combine apricot preserves, balsamic vinegar & remaining Tbsp olive oil.
  3. Remove potatoes from oven & slide them around a bit to make room for the chicken. Place the chicken on the pan; brush apricot mixture all over breasts. Place the pan back in the oven & roast for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through & potatoes are golden. Garnish with fresh basil if preferred.

Brunch – Celebrating Mother’s Day

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

In the food service industry, brunch on Mother’s Day is huge. What better way is there to celebrate your mom then by taking her out of the kitchen on her day. As is the case with many culinary traditions, the origin of brunch is a bit hazy.

There are numerous theories, such as the English tradition of feasting after a hunt, or from the Catholic tradition of fasting before church and having a large meal after services. By 1930, ‘brunch’, that blend of breakfast and lunch had caught on in the United States. From some of the classic dishes restaurants offered such as eggs benedict,  brunch evolved into decadent spreads that even included morning cocktails.

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 39 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.

It is also with loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. To my sisters, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

In July 2016, I posted a blog entitled ‘Brunch in Thibery, France. It has some more brunch ideas for croissants, crepes and french toast you might like.

For today I have two brunch items in mind. One is BAKED EGGS IN PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CAPS  and the other a SAVORY SALMON & DILL MUFFIN.  Enjoy your day!

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Salmon/Dill Muffins & Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
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Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American
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Salmon/Dill Muffins
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Salmon/Dill Muffins
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Salmon/Dill Muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-cup large muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder; add grated cheese, salmon & fresh dill. In a small bowl, beat together egg, milk & oil. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add wet ingredients, mix only until combined.
  3. Fill muffin cups half full; divide cream cheese between the 8 cups. Top with remaining batter to evenly fill cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done.
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stalk from mushroom caps. Make sure mushrooms do not get cracked so the eggs & sauce leak out. Place mushrooms in a baking dish that will keep them from tipping. Divide pasta sauce between mushrooms & spread. Break an egg into each mushroom. Pour cream over the eggs, drizzling to try to cover the whole surface.
  2. Carefully place mushrooms in the oven for about 20 minutes. When eggs are almost set lay cheese slices on top & continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • Cooking times can vary between ovens; watch eggs closely.
  • If you prefer, you can scrape out the mushroom 'gills' to make more room for the filling.

‘Retro’ Lemon Pudding Cheesecake Pie

Spring has finally arrived (at least that’s what the calendar says)!  It’s time to bring our taste buds out of hibernation and put our winter favorites on the back burner in favor of fresh spring flavors. Nothing says spring more than the taste of lemon. Fabulously versatile, lemons create a zesty, fresh flavor perfect for some spring zing.

I believe Lemon Meringue Pie  entered the mainstream culture in the 1940’s and remained popular through the 50′ and 60’s. It was definitely one of those desserts that most men of that time, including my dad, just loved. 

In doing a little research on the subject, it seems in 1951, the Sunkist lemon producers came up with a ‘new idea’. It was a Lemon Cheesecake pie in a graham wafer crust. It was advertised to be quick, easy, inexpensive as well as delicious! 

In March of 1959, the  Family Circle  magazine published a recipe for a Lemon ‘Pudding’ Cheesecake  pie. This version required no cooking  and basically had only about four ingredients. The idea appears to have been one from ‘General Foods’  using their Jell-o Instant Lemon Pudding  mix. It hardly seems it could be much easier than that.

In the spring of 2004, I saw a recipe on kraftcanada.com  for a more current remake of this recipe. Of course it takes longer to make and uses twice the amount of ingredients but sounded real good.

Just for fun, I decided to make the 1959 version with the addition of some lemon zest for a more vibrant lemon flavor.

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'Retro' Lemon Pudding Cheesecake Pie
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Graham Crust
  1. In a bowl, combine graham crumbs, sugar & melted margarine. Mix well. Reserve 1/4 cup of mixture for topping. Press remainder on bottom & up sides of an 8-inch pie pan or spread evenly on the bottom of an 8-inch spring form pan.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, soften cream cheese, blend with 1/2 cup milk. Add remaining milk, lemon zest & pudding powder mix. Beat on low, just until well mixed, about 1 minute (do not overbeat). Pour filling into graham crust. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 of crumbs. Chill at least 1 hour.
Recipe Notes
  • Just a little side note -- On April 16, 2016 I had published a blog which featured a  No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake. It was one of the first cheesecakes my mother made.  It used lemon jell-o powder and was extremely light tasting. We loved it!
  • I tried making the filling with 1% milk & light cream cheese as well as adding some food color to brighten it up, all adjustments worked out real good. Definitely made it a guilt-free dessert!