In the Kitchen: Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

Why yes, that is a mini cookies and cream cheesecake with an Oreo for a crust. Need I say more? I think not.
Ingredients

21 oreos (15 whole plus 6 coarsely chopped)
1 pound (16 oz) cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp salt

Heat oven to 375° and line 15 muffin cups with paper liners. Put one whole oreo in the bottom of each lined cup and crush the remaining 6 oreos into small pieces, but not crumbs.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well mixed.
Beat in the vanilla and eggs, scraping the bowl as needed, until well blended. Lastly beat in the sour cream and salt and then stir in the chopped oreos by hand.

Fill the cups with the batter almost right to the top of the liner. The cheesecakes will not rise, and if anything, they will sink a bit after cooking, so you can fill them all the way up.

Bake for 11 minutes, rotate the tins and bake for another 11 minutes or until the center is set.

Cool completely in the tins on a wire rack then transfer to the fridge and cool in tins for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from tins before serving and store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

These sweet little temptations require minimal ingredients and are super fast and easy to make. You can also substitute a different cookie such as Golden Oreos, Nilla Wafers or Gingersnaps – or how about those Oreo’s with the peanut butter or mint cream centers? Now we’re talkin…
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.
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In the Kitchen: Blackberry Corn Muffins

There are so many good things about these muffins, I’m not sure where to start. I guess I’ll start by telling you how delicious they are, because that is most important when baking, right? So aside from that (and being really easy to make) you can also substitute any berry you like in place of the blackberries — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, even cherries or yummy tart currants. These muffins are sweet enough for a light dessert but not too indulgent to accompany a fresh salad, a bowl of chili or a hotdog cook-out for lunch or dinner. You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of the post.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup fine-ground cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted & cooled
8 ounces fresh blackberries (or other berry)
2 Tbsp raw sugar
Preheat oven to 375° and line 14 standard size muffin tins with paper liners.

If your blackberries are monster sized like mine usually are, cut them in smaller pieces.
In a medium large bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients, set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Batter will be thick.
Fill each cup with two slight mounded tablespoons of batter. I use a tablespoon sized cookie scooper (like a mini ice cream scooper), two scoops, it works great. The cups will only be about half full, but you need room to add the berries and they will rise when baking, too.
Next add the berries on top of the batter, pushing in slightly, but not too much. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar, you can also use regular granulated sugar if you like but I love the rich flavor of the natural raw sugar (I also use it in the batter).
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate tins and bake another 10 – 12 minutes until light golden brown. Cool completely in tins on a wire rack before removing.

The tops will brown lightly giving them a sweet crunch with the slightly carmelized raw sugar, while the insides stay super moist and delicious. They are best enjoyed soon after baking but will store in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple days, though chances are they won’t last that long.
I recently made a batch with some fresh picked sour cherries and they were amazing! So get creative, this batter is the perfect base for almost anything and you can also adjust the amount of sugar you add to it to suit your taste or health requirements. Enjoy!
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Chicken Florentine Meatballs

Today’s recipe comes upon special request from the lovely, and very pregnant, Jill of jillry. She recently contacted me in search of freezer-friendly recipes that she can whip up ahead of time and her husband can easily pop in the oven after the little one arrives. These chicken florentine meatballs have been on my ‘upcoming recipes’ list and seeing as how I had just taken a bag out of my freezer, they immediately came to mind. Easy to make, easy to freeze, delicious and healthy, these meatballs are an all around winner. You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Ingredients
2 eggs, beaten
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 lb ground chicken, raw
In a large bowl mix the spinach, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, spices and eggs. Break up the chicken and blend it with the spinach mixture until thoroughly combined. Roll the mixture into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Bake the meatballs on a wire rack atop a shallow baking dish at 400° for 20 – 25 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
If you wish to freeze the meatballs, place the rolled, uncooked meatballs in an airtight container or ziploc bag and place them in the freezer. When you are ready to bake, allow them to thaw completely and bake as directed above. When I make a batch of these, I bake half and freeze half for another meal. Each half serves about four.
These meatballs are delicious served plain (which are perfect for appetizers!) or with your favorite type of pasta and sauce. I love them with a simple mushroom marinara and whole wheat pasta but when I have the time, I serve them over spaghetti squash for something a little different.

If you’ve never had spaghetti squash, it’s really quite fascinating and you can prepare it in so many ways – from eating it as a pasta to baking it into a cheesy casserole side dish.
To cook the squash, first cut off the stem and then cut the squash in half. Scrape out the seeds and pulp, but be careful not to go too deep into the flesh or you will start to break up the strands.
Place the two halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 375° for about 30 – 40 minutes until tender.

Now this is the fun part – once slightly cooled, separate the strands by scraping the flesh with a fork and voila, spaghetti! Well, spaghetti squash. Neat, huh?
Overall, it’s fairly flavorless by itself, with just a slight squash/zucchini type taste, so it takes well to anything you top it with – butter, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese or mushrooms, marinara and chicken florentine meatballs!

However you serve these freezer-friendly meatballs, they are a delicious alternative to beef, make a unique appetizer and are a great way to get your kids to eat spinach!
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken with Pasta Croquettes and Tiramisu Cupcakes

I’m sure there is a proper way to pound meat, and a proper tool for doing such. But, as with all things in life, if you don’t have what you need, improvise. In this house that means a big rubber mallet. Did it get the job done? You bet. Was it perfect? Not even close. But in addition to an impressive meal, I also got a workout.

Now this meal requires some serious patience in the kitchen, and if you have anything less than an over abundance, don’t even attempt a single part of it. But if you’re feeling frisky, then go or it — and revel in the beautiful bounty you have created. Read on for all the yummy details and find printable recipe cards at the end of the post.

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MOZZARELLA STUFFED CHICKEN

Ingredients
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup seasoned fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil

To toast the pine nuts, place them in a dry skillet over medium high heat and cook until they start to brown and become fragrant.


If you’ve never used a shallot, it’s kind of like an onion that looks like a big purple bulb of garlic. You can find them in the produce section of your market near the onions or garlic. Peel off the skin, just like you would garlic, and chop em up.
To make the filling, saute the shallot and garlic in a skillet with some olive oil until tender. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts. Set aside.

And now we pound the meat. As I mentioned, I’m sure there are better tools to do this that a rubber mallet, but it gets the job done. I placed the breast, one at a time, in a gallon zip loc bag and pounded, pushing out a bit, until the breast was about 1/8 thick.
Once all the breasts are flattened, season with salt and pepper if desired. Working one at a time, spoon about 2-3 Tbsp of filling in the center.

Fold in one of the short sides, then the two long sides (as shown in the upper left photo above). Starting at the folded short end, roll the chicken, keeping the sides tucked in, towards the unfolded end and secure with toothpicks.
Brush each rolled breast with olive oil.

Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl and roll each breast until coated. Place seam side down in a shallow baking dish and bake at 400° for about 25 minutes until chicken is tender and no longer pink.
Remove the toothpicks before serving. They may be a little hard to pull out, so feel free to utilize more tools (like a pair of pliers) if needed 🙂
If you’d like a crispier breading, saute the crumb coated breasts in a skillet with a little oil until browned before baking. These are delicious served as is or you can top with a little marinara or white sauce.
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PASTA CROQUETTES


Ingredients
8 oz egg noodles
6 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp green onions, chopped
6 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best!)
2 cups milk
3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten

For breading
Flour
2 eggs beaten with 2 Tbsp water
Panko bread crumbs
Oil for frying

Prepare the noodles according to package directions and drain well. Even though my package of noodles said ‘wide’, I wouldn’t consider them wide. They are about the size of fettucini and flat – these will work best.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the green onions and saute until tender. It may look like a lot of onion, especially if you’re not a huge onion fan, but it is important to the flavor, which is not a strong onion flavor, so use them all!
Stir in the flour, salt and pepper and stir well. Cook until it begins to bubble. Stir in the milk and cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring almost constantly.
Stir in the parmesan cheese and once melted, add a little of the mixture to the beaten egg in a small bowl then add the egg mixture back to the saucepan and cook until it just begins to boil.

Mix the sauce with the noodles and press into a greased 8″ or 9″ pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, pressing down on the noodles, and chill in the refrigerator for several hours or preferably, overnight.

To finish the croquettes, cut the chilled pasta into squares and working a few at a time, first thoroughly coat the squares with flour. Next dip them in the beaten egg/water mixture and finally coat them completely with the breadcrumbs.

Fry them in oil until crispy and brown on all sides, turning as you go. I used canola oil, you can also use vegetable or any oil of your choice. Set them on a paper towel to drain until all squares are done.
Place them on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and heat in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes (you can put them in with the chicken), until thoroughly heated throughout. Depending on how you fry them and the type of pan and oil you use, they may be heated through after frying, but putting them in the oven won’t hurt them and it keeps them all warm until ready to serve.
I prefer these with a little marinara on top, it really pulls all the flavors together, but you can also serve them plain or top them with a slice of provolone cheese when you put them in the oven and let it melt on top. Mmmmm! I just can’t get enough of this dish.
You can store any leftovers covered in the fridge, but reheat in the oven, rather than the microwave, and they will come out tasting like you just made them.
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TIRAMISU CUPCAKES


Ingredients
1 1/4 cup cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
4 Tbsp butter, room temp and cut into pieces
3 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temp
1 cup sugar
Coffee-Marsala Syrup
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp strong brewed coffee or espresso
1 ounce sweet Marsala wine
1/4 cup sugar
Mascarpone Frosting
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz mascarpone cream, room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325° and line 16 standard muffin tins with paper liners or grease and flour the cups.

If you’ve never used a vanilla bean, it will be a fun adventure. They are expensive and a little bit of work, but well worth the flavor in a dish like this.

Cut one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds, placing them, along with the empty pod, into a medium saucepan with the milk. Heat over medium until bubbles appear around the edges. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until melted.
Let stand about 15 minutes and strain through a fine sieve or strainer into a bowl. Discard the bean pod and set the butter mixture aside.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a heat safe bowl until combined. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk by hand until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
Remove the bowl from heat and beat again with the electric mixer on high until pale and fluffy and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches. Stir 1/2 cup batter into the strained butter mixture then fold it back into the batter stirring gently until just combined.
Divide the batter among the cups, filling about 3/4 cup full and bake for about 20 minutes, rotating tins halfway through, until center is set and edges are light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

To prepare the syrup, stir together the coffee, marsala wine and sugar until dissolved. Brush the syrup on top of the cupcakes, repeating until all syrup has been used. The tops will get soggy, but they will be covered with frosting so it’s ok!

To prepare the frosting, beat the cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, whisk together the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Gently fold the two together until thoroughly mixed.
Dollop the frosting onto the cupcakes and dust with cocoa powder before serving. I guarantee everyone will be impressed by the amazingly light, spongy texture of the cupcakes and the rich creaminess of the frosting.
If you don’t plan on gobbling them all up at once, I recommend keeping the frosting and cakes separate and topping each before enjoying. They get a little soggy and the frosting starts to thin out after a day or two.
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I told you it was a lot of work, but this is definitely a meal to impress. I made it for my Dad on Father’s Day and plan to try it out on some chef friends of ours – it’s that good. At least I think so, and I hope you do to.
I’d love to hear what you think and how it goes if you try out any of these recipes! Have fun 🙂

In the Kitchen: Orange Chiffon Pie

Today I had planned on sharing one of the fanciest (and most time consuming) dinner + dessert combos I’ve made in quite some time. However, yesterdays purging bin got the best of me and I fell way behind on all the ‘real work’ I was supposed to do, and since a three-part recipe post usually takes me a few hours to whip out, it’s gonna have to wait ’til next week.

Ultimately though, it all works out, but I realized that the Chocolate Crusted Orange Chiffon Pie I’ve been waiting to share would be another perfect Fourth of July picnic addition, so here it is. Light yet rich, creamy and delicious, the flavor of this pie comes from real fruit, no jell-o mixes here, and you can taste the freshness in every bite.
Now if you’ve never made a true chiffon pie before, I’ll tell you, it’s not all that difficult, but it does require that you have your wits about you and that you be around to keep an eye on things for awhile. It’s also not an exact science, but one that you’ll come to perfect by instinct the more you do it.
Crust:
2 cups chocolate crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Filling:
1 Tbsp (1 1/4 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (~ 2 large oranges)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (~ 1 lemon)
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks (save the whites for an omelette!)
2 Tbsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
You can use just about any type of un-iced and un-filled cookie to make crumbs for your crust. Any flavor of graham crackers work well, as well as gingersnaps, vanilla wafers or even biscotti. You can use a food processor to crush the cookies into fine crumbs or alternatively you can place the cookies in a heavy duty large ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
To make the crust, mix the crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended and all crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie pan, building up just slightly above the rim.
Bake the crust at 325° for 8 minutes and set aside to cool.
I used a larger zester on the oranges for this pie, as I wanted to see some of the zest throughout, but you can also use a microplane zester for a finer grate. Just be sure to zest your oranges before squeezing them.
To prepare the filling, in a medium saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the orange and lemon juice. Stir with a fork and let stand for a few minutes to soften the gelatin.

Add the sugar, egg yolks, orange zest and salt and whisk until blended. Then whisk in the milk.
Cook over medium heat, whisking almost constantly, for about 5-10 minutes until the mixture starts to become foamy around the edges. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until it has thickened slightly and you start to see wisps of steam rising, but be sure to not let the mixture boil.
Pour into a large bowl and place in the fridge.

Whisk the mixture every 10 minutes until it feels cool and thickens up significantly. When a lifted spoonful dropped onto the surface makes a small mound and does not sink back in, it’s ready. Depending on your fridge and the size of your bowl, this will take 1 – 2 hours, which is longer than most chiffon mixtures.
About 10 minutes before you anticipate the mixture to be thickened, whip the cream with an electric or stand mixer in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form.
Spoon the cream over the orange mixture and gently fold the two together using a flexible spatula until well blended. Spoon the mixture into the prepared crust, mounding in the center, and chill in the fridge for several hours before serving.
If desired, garnish with additional orange zest, mini chocolate chips, shaved chocolate curls or additional whip creamed, serve and enjoy!
At my Memorial Day picnic, I thought the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes would be the temptress but this pie lasted about 3.5 minutes and there wasn’t a crumb left. Im sure you can guess what everyone’s asked me to make for the Fourth of July…
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Two Fruity Muffins

Am I the only one in total shock that the Fourth of July is less than two weeks away? If I had a dime for every time I’ve said ‘time flies’, I could buy the $1500 desk I fell in love with yesterday…

Now I know July 4th is just another Sunday to you international friends, but for us here in the states it’s quite a meaningful day. Though really, it’s mostly just become a great excuse to have a picnic and play with firecrackers, sparklers and boom sticks — all of which I’m totally on board with, by the way. It happens to be my favorite holiday, because in addition to peanut butter, rocking chairs and kaleidoscopes, fireworks are one of my favorite things.
Oh, and muffins. Did I mention that I love muffins? And cupcakes. I know they are kinda trendy these days but they have always been my favorite. They are just so cute, portable and perfectly proportioned. Nine years ago, everyone I knew ditched me on my birthday so I baked myself some cupcakes. But don’t feel sorry for me, it just meant I got to eat them all myself.
You may be starting to wonder why I’m so talkative today, I know I am, and I have no idea, so I’ll get back on track! Today I have two delicious muffins for you that are fruity and festive in red, white and blue and are a lighter addition to any holiday picnic (or just great for breakfast or a snack!), whole wheat strawberry banana and blueberry orange buttermilk. Read on for the recipes and printable recipe cards.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Banana

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
The key to baking anything with bananas is making sure they are very ripe, and I mean very. When you think they couldn’t possibly get any mushier, leave them for another 4 days. The skins should be nearly black and if you see fruit flies starting to buzz around your kitchen, they’re ready.
Also, when it comes to the flour in this recipe, if you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour or don’t like it, you can use 2 1/4 cups unbleached or all purpose flour.
Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease and flour cups.

In a large bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gently stir in the strawberries being careful not to smash them but making sure they are coated. Depending on their size, about 6-8 strawberries equals one cup chopped.

In a medium bowl thoroughly mash the bananas. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla and then add the melted butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, careful not to over mix. Batter will be thick. Divide the batter evenly among the tins and bake for 20 minutes at 350° or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely.

These muffins rise quite a bit during baking, but always go straight up rather than ballooning over the edges. They also work quite nicely when baked without liners, which I prefer when I’m just baking for myself.
Aside from the pretty, patriotic liners (which I’ll get to later in this post), I decorated half my muffins with red, white and blue nonpareils which I sprinkled on top of the batter before baking. I found they looked better on the blueberry muffins because that cake was whiter without any wheat flour, but they were still fun and festive!
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Blueberry Orange Buttermilk
Ingredients:
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Grated zest of 1/2 large orange
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease and flour cups.
Put the blueberries in a large bowl and add the powdered sugar, tossing gently to coat. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix gently until combined. You can also use frozen blueberries in this recipe, just make sure they are thoroughly thawed, drained and patter dry before tossing with the powdered sugar.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, milk, melted butter and orange zest. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold together just until combined. As a general rule, you never want to overmix muffins or they will become tough.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and risen. (By the way, and ice cream scoop like this is the *perfect* tool for scooping muffin or cupcake batter. Seriously, it’s totally worth the investment and drawer space it will take up.)

Cool in tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely.

The hint of orange in this recipe really brings the flavors to life and adds the slightest orange hue to the batter which is just so pretty. The buttermilk also makes them rich and moist. This recipe really is a delicious twist on a classic favorite.
I also decorated half of these with the nonpareils, which looked awesome. So, speaking of decorations – let’s talk liners!
When I bake muffins for my own personal munching, I generally skip the liners. Not only do you have less waste, but I personally feel the muffins are easier to eat (and a little bigger!). But when it comes to a party or sharing muffins with others, I always go with liners, and the more festive the better.
There is an amazing selection on Etsy of all different colors and patterns, I tend to go a little crazy. I order most of mine from Sweet Estelle because her shop is just so darn cute and she is super sweet to boot! I used a combination of stripes and retro swirls at my recent Memorial Day picnic and they looked awesome.
Little Monster Hugs also has a great selection of stars and stripes themed liners that would be perfect for for the Fourth of July!
Now if you don’t have time to order liners (or don’t want to spend the money), you can also make wrappers out of scrapbook paper or you can customize them for any occasion by printing words or image before cutting them out. It’s also fun to make toppers for your muffins or cupcakes and tomorrow I’ll have an easy how-to and some templates for you, so I hope you stop back!

In the Kitchen: It’s Strawberry Season!

For me, nothing says summer like strawberries! Here in Northeast Ohio, they’re the first fruit ready for picking and since they aren’t available (even in stores) for most of the year, I tend to go a little crazy when I see the juicy red berries come to life.
Aside from my standbys of strawberry lemon marmalade and cheesecake with strawberry sauce, I try to make different treats each year. I’m not always successful with my kitchen endeavors but today I have three delicious recipes to share that I couldn’t be happier with – strawberry cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting, strawberry crumble pie and strawberry scones.
My initial pick of about five quarts got me through these three recipes, two failed frosting attempts, a batch of cheesecake sauce and plenty of daily eating. Just in time to head back out and pick the second batch of bloomers. Get your buckets ready and read on for the recipes, how-to’s and printable recipe cards. Happy Picking!
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Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you aren’t tempted to lick your computer screen right now, you better check your pulse. These cupcakes are like heaven in a little fluted liner. Perfectly moist, soft and fluffy with a zen like balance of fresh and sweet. Plus they’re pink, which automatically kicks up the awesomeness a few notches. They’re also pretty easy to make, so what are you waiting for?


Ingredients yields about 16 cupcakes
1 1/3 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/8 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp strawberry puree

Preheat the oven to 350° and line muffin tins with paper liners. I often bake muffins (and some cupcakes) without liners but I find these cupcakes work better in liners.
If you have trouble finding cake flour, look by the cake mixes rather than the bags of flour. It’s in a box and looks like a cake mix so it’s hard to spot if you haven’t seen it before. Pillsbury Softasilk is the most common brand but there are others, too. It does make a difference in this recipe, so do use it.
Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt, set aside.


With an electric mixer (stand or hand), cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium high speed. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just mixed.
On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, then half the milk, then the remaining flour and lastly the remaining milk, beating until well mixed. Gently stir in the strawberries by hand.

Spoon batter into prepared liners, filling about 3/4 full. I have one 12-cup muffin pan and two 6-cup muffins pans for recipes that make more than 12 cupcakes. Having the smaller 6-cup tins allows for better baking when you have 3-4 extra cupcakes and having two of them allows for two full 12-cup batches.
Bake for 15 minutes and rotate tins in oven. Bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes then remove the cupcakes from the tins and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, you’ll first need a little strawberry puree. Finely chop about 5 – 8 strawberries (depending on size) and mash them in a bowl with a fork or masher until pureed.
Next, cream together the butter and cream cheese with a electric mixer. Beat in the strawberry puree followed by the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until well blended and thick. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to taste or for thickness. Do note, this frosting will be a little thinner than a standard cream cheese or buttercream frosting because of the strawberries. Chill it in the refrigerator for 30 – 60 min before piping and it will work nicely.
My piping is a little sloppy because I was impatient (and running out of daylight), so I piped my cupcakes before the frosting chilled enough. It still works just fine and wont run off the cupcakes, but will look much prettier and stay put a bit better if chilled.

All that’s left now is to enjoy! If these don’t make it into someone’s belly the first day, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes (or longer) and warm to room temperature before eating. Trust me on that one, they’re too hard when cold but just as good as fresh baked after they warm up, even a week later. Fat chance if they make it past day two.
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Strawberry Crumble Pie
If pie is more your thing, listen up. Chances are you are used to cold strawberry pies, topped with piles of whipped cream or made chiffon style. And while there’s nothing wrong with those classics (trust me, I’ll throw back a piece or seven), you don’t often see a warm, gooey baked strawberry pie. Topped with a sweet crunchy crumble, sitting atop a chewy cream cheese crust you say? Yes, please.
It’s not a very sweet pie, it lets the simple strawberry filling speak for itself, but the crumble topping adds a sweet crunch and the buttery cream cheese crust has the perfect bite. I don’t even like fruit pie, let alone warm fruit pie, but I’ve been on this one like a duck on a slug.

Ingredients
Crust
1 stick butter, slightly softened
3 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/8 tsp salt
Crumble
1/3 cup sugar (I use raw turbinado sugar)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup old fashioned or quick-cook oats
4 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
Filling
5 generous cups quartered strawberries
1/2 cup sugar (if you like a sweeter pie, use 2/3 cup)
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp grated orange zest

To make the crust, beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined. If you have a food processor, you can make the crust in there, otherwise, you can use a hand mixer and a spoon!
Add the flour and salt and mix until blended. Dough will start to come together but still be in pieces. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, you can make the crumble topping. Combine the sugar, flour and oatmeal in a small bowl, stir until blended. Add the melted butter (cooled slightly) and stir until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Back to the dough! Once chilled, remove from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll to about 1/8″ thick and large enough to fill a 9″ pie pan.

I find the easiest way to transfer dough to a pie dish is to roll it around the rolling pin (add a little flour as you go so it doesn’t stick to itself). Hold the rolling pin over the pie dish and unroll over the pan.
Press to fit as needed, trim edges about 1/4 above rim of pan and shape as desired.
Now, I’ll tell you, I’ve never been all that fond of rolling pie dough. It really is a fine art but I do ok after years of practice. However, this dough is a different story. It’s soft, it’s hard to work with, it will probably tear and make you go crazy. But don’t worry! Just smoosh it back together and move on. It won’t look pretty, but it doesn’t have to. The deliciousness will far outweigh a less than perfect fluted edge and everyone will be so impressed that you even made the dough, they won’t care what it looks like.
Place the crust back in the fridge for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 350°. Once chilled, prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and bake the empty crust for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling.

Increase the oven temperature to 375°.
Add the lemon juice and orange zest to the strawberries and toss gently to combine. Next add the sugar, cornstarch and flour, stirring gently until thoroughly mixed.

Spoon the strawberries into the crust and top with the chilled crumble mixture.
Bake for 50 minutes until topping is golden brown and filling starts to bubble. Place on a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.
As I mentioned earlier, I find this pie best served warm, slightly gooey and syrupy and just cool enough to not burn your mouth. You certainly can eat it cold, which is how I usually like my pie, but I think you lose the sweetness of the strawberries and pick up more of the flour taste in the filling when it’s cold.
Store any leftovers in airtight container in the fridge and heat slices in the microwave for about 30 – 45 seconds before serving.
I’ll end by simply saying, look at that crust…
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Whole Wheat Strawberry Scones
Scones – you either like ’em biscuity (like me), like ’em sweet (like my parents) or you don’t really know what they are (like my husband). Essentially a scone is a small british quickbread of scottish origin. It was originally round, flat and baked on a griddle but the invention of baking powder took this treat to a new level and the common triangle or wedge shape took popularity to minimize dough wastage.
Most scones in the US these days are sweeter than their foregin counterparts and often topped with icing, but I prefer mine less sweet with a sprinkling of coarse sugar and made with whole wheat flour for extra nutrition. You could equate my recipe below to a slightly sweetened fresh strawberry biscuit and for me, it doesn’t get much better than that on a rainy Sunday morning.
Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour*
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, slightly softened
2/3 cup cream
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
Topping
1 egg + 1 Tbsp cold water
Coarse sugar
*You can omit the whole wheat flour and use 2 cups total white flour if you prefer.

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Coarsely chop the strawberries and let sit in a colander for about 5 -10 minutes to drain any excess liquid. Toss with about 1 Tbsp sugar and set aside.
Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, fork or two knifes until it resembles coarse, pea sized crumbles.
Stir in the strawberries and then add the cream, stirring gently until combined and dough starts to hold together.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface (it will be a little sticky, add a little flour as needed) and shape into a disc about 1″ thick. Cut into 6-8 wedges and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Alternatively you can shape the dough into a rectangle, cut two squares and then cut each square in half forming 8 triangle scones.
Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and one tablespoon of water (alternatively you can use milk). Remove the scones from the oven, brush with the egg wash and generously top with coarse sugar. I use raw turbinado. You can skip this step if you prefer and top with a powdered sugar icing if you like a sweeter treat but I find them perfect with the sparkly, crunchy raw sugar topping.
Return to the oven and bake an additional 5 – 10 minutes until tops start to brown. Mine took an additional 7 minutes. Be careful to not overbake or they will get dry.
Let cool on pan or a wire rack about 10 minutes before munching. I find these most delicious when served fresh out of the oven and slightly warm, topped with a little butter and fresh fruit spread (like homemade peach butter!).
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days and allow them to warm to room temperature or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before enjoying.
You can also substitute a variety of fresh fruit for the strawberries in this recipe, such as blueberries, raspberries or peaches – yum!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s strawberry celebration! I’d love to hear what you think if you give these recipes a try and I’d also love to see you’re favorite strawberry recipes. Feel free to share in the comments below and happy picking!

In the Kitchen: Jalapeño Lime Chicken Pasta

I’ll start by saying that my photos of this dish don’t quite do it justice. I’m usually racing against the setting sun (and my grumbling belly) when I make and shoot dinner dishes, plus pasta with a thin sauce is always a tough one to capture, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it’s a plate full of creamy deliciousness. A blend of yummy, fresh ingredients give this dish a unique kick and the use of lime juice really turns up the flavor eliminating the need for excess salt. Don’t let the jalapeno scare you away, it’s not that spicy, and you can cut back the quantity if desired. You can also make this dish meatless or swap out the veggies to suit your tastes. If you’re looking for a new, unique pasta dish, definitely give this one a try.
Ingredients (about 4 servings)
8 oz uncooked spinach fettuccine
1/2 to 1lb boneless skinless chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 red or yellow bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
4 Tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes, divided use)
1 teaspoon garlic salt (divided use)
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup fat free evaporated milk
3/4 cup reserved water from fettuccine
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
freshly ground pepper
Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions and drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. If you can’t find or don’t like spinach fettuccine, use whole wheat.
Cut up the chicken, onion, jalapeno and red pepper and saute in a large skillet until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the chicken broth and 2 Tbsp lime juice. Saute for 5 – 10 minutes longer until most of the liquid has cooked away but the mixture is still moist.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Add the pasta to the skillet along with the evaporated milk, reserved cooking water, parmesan cheese, remaining 2 Tbsp lime juice and 1/2 tsp garlic salt and toss gently to combine. Give it a taste at this point and add additional lime juice or garlic salt if desired, but do note that with both flavors, a little goes a long way so add slowly.
Continue cooking a few minutes until the noodles are heated through and the liquid cooks down a bit. Add the chopped cilantro and a pinch of fresh ground pepper, serve and enjoy! Garnish with additional grated parmesan if desired.
It may look like this is a drier pasta dish, but there really is plenty of sauce to go around. Since it’s thinner, it tends to sink to the bottom when you’re sitting around snapping photos instead of gobbling it up, but I have found that serving it in a shallow bowl makes scooping creamy deliciousness with every bite a little bit easier.
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Double Chocolate Toffee Cheesecake

For those who have little-to-no interest in the all natural, healthy recipes I’ve been sharing lately, this one’s for you! It may, in fact, be the exact opposite of healthy, if there is such a thing.

If you’re looking for delicious gluttony in a chocolate graham crust, look no further. Yes, it’s rich and sweet and decadent, but the sour cream style filling keeps it light and balances the flavors perfectly. You’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Ingredients

Crust:
2 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar
Filling:
6 oz semisweet chocolate (chips or bar broke into pieces)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Topping:
4 Heath candy bars, chopped
1 dark chocolate candy bar
Grease a 9″ springform pan and wrap two layers of aluminum foil around it.
To make the graham crumbs, you can either crush the crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or use a mini food processor. You’ll need 1 1/2 to 2 packages of full graham crackers to get 2 1/2 cups of crumbs.
Once the crumbs are ready, combine them with the melted butter and sugar in a small bowl.
Press the crumbs into the greased pan, on the bottom and one inch up the sides. Place the foil wrapped pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350°. Let cool and prepare the filling.
Place the chocolate chips or pieces and the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl or heavy saucepan and melt, mixing until smooth. If you melt chocolate in the microwave, the key is to remove it before all the pieces are completely melted. Heat until soft and then stir to melt the rest of the way. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla, then gradually beat in the melted chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and beat on low until just combined.
Pour into the prepared crust and place the foil wrapped pan in a large baking pan. Add 1 1/2″ of hot water to the baking pan and bake the cheesecake at 350° for 55 – 70 minutes until the center is just set.
Allow to cool on a wire rack or about 20 – 30 minutes then top with chopped heath pieces. You want the cheesecake to still be a little warm so the pieces melt a bit and stick to the top and each other. Let the cheesecake cool completely before adding the dark chocolate. You can do this after another 30 minutes or so, or refrigerate and add the chocolate before serving.
Chop the dark chocolate (one small candy bar is plenty) and melt in a glass bowl in the microwave. Drizzle with a spoon over the top of the cheesecake, allow to cool and harden then serve and enjoy!
If you’re looking to impress, bake one of these up for your next party or get together. But be warned, no matter how much of a chocolate lover you are, cut small pieces. This one means business.

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

In the Kitchen: Huevos Rancheros

If you love mexican food but have never tried this hearty breakfast dish, you’re in for a real treat, which is also delicious for lunch or dinner! As with many dishes, there are a variety of ways to make it from how you cook your eggs to the ingredients in your sauce. This is how I love ’em, feel free to roll with it from here. This recipe makes four servings and you’ll find a printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Ingredients:
8 corn tortillas, fried
6 eggs, scrambled
1 cup refried pinto beans
shredded cheddar cheese
Ranchero Sauce:
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
To make the sauce, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, jalapeno and garlic and cook for about a minute.
Next add the chopped tomatoes, chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth) and tomato paste and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh cilantro.

You can certainly leave the beans out, but they add a delicious flavor and heartiness to the dish. You can use canned beans or make them any way you like. I make mine from scratch using dried beans. I soak and rinse them, then cook them in water with some chili, garlic and onion powders and some cumin. I drain out most of the liquid, saving it, then mash them up with my mixer. Add more liquid back in as needed and season again to taste with the same spices plus some crushed red pepper and salt, if desired. I make these when we have tacos and enchiladas and always have leftovers, which are perfect for this dish.


To prepare the tortillas, heat about 1/4″ of oil (I use canola) in a non-stick skillet and lightly fry the tortillas until they begin to bubble and brown a bit, flipping as needed.
Lay four tortillas on a baking sheet and spread about 1/4 cup beans on each and top with another tortilla.

Next, top the tortilla with the eggs, followed by the sauce and finally the shredded cheese. I like my eggs scrambled, but you can also try this dish with fried, or even poached, eggs.
Place the baking sheet under the broiler on low for about 5 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve immediately and enjoy!
The sauce and the beans can be made ahead of time and store well in the fridge, making this dish quick and easy to cook up when you’re ready to eat. Add a side of tropical fruit or citrus salad and you have a hearty, impressive meal that’s perfect morning, noon or night. My dad loves this dish, so guess what’s on my Father’s Day brunch menu!
And find more easy and delicious recipes here.