Wednesday, August 31, 2011


It's hard to go wrong with fried dough and these churros are no exception. I went to Spain with my family years ago and while the spectacular views and friendly people are hazy memories, I can remember the hot, fresh churros served with thick hot chocolate perfectly. I could have eaten churros at breakfast, lunch and dinner they were that good. I decided to overcome my frying anxiety with these churros because I knew they would be a great addition to my 24x24 party menu.

My frying anxiety comes from when I was in college, I tried to fry my own french fries and I almost lit the entire townhouse on fire. It was my first time frying anything and I poured the oil in a large saucepan and turned the burner on the highest heat. Who knew you couldn't heat oil on the highest heat? I quickly learned when the oil caught on fire and I had to use our fire extinguisher to put it out. Yes, I had a fire extinguisher (thanks mom). I took the pot outside and set it in the grass to cool down, leaving a black burn spot in the yard for at least 6 months. So after holding onto that bad memory for far too long, I decided I needed a deep fryer that does all the work for me. These churros had the crispy cinnamon, sugar outside and sweet dough inside that I enjoyed so much in Spain.

One last note about these churros, pipe the dough onto a metal baking sheet before throwing them in the oil so they stay straight. If you pipe the dough directly into the oil they will curl up. And remember to heat the oil over medium-high heat if you fry these in a pan.

makes 24 6-inch churros

4 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
6 quarts of vegetable oil

Heat oil to 375°F. 

In a pot over medium-high heat stir together water, 2/3 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and then take the pot off the heat and stir in the flour. Stir together until the dough forms a ball. Place dough into a pastry bag (I used the giant star tip from Bake it Pretty) and pipe dough on a metal baking sheet before dropping them into the oil. Fry churros until golden, about 6-9 minutes. Drain on paper towels and stir together the 1 c. of sugar and the cinnamon and roll the churros in this cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

mango pudding

Mango pudding is a dessert you can find in most Asian countries but I was lucky enough to try it in Singapore about a year and half ago. Ripe mangoes and coconut milk make this dessert a cool, summer treat and can instantly cool your mouth off after a spicy meal. Not to mention it was the healthiest dessert option at my 9 wonderful desserts of the world dessert party. Many mango pudding recipes use evaporated milk or whipping cream but the coconut milk in this recipe creates the perfect balance with the sweet mangoes. It's important to use sweet, ripe mangoes for this pudding to get that fresh flavor in this pudding. Adding sugar to unripe mangoes will make this dessert sweet but it won't pop with mango flavor like it's supposed to. Even though summer is coming to end, mangoes are still in season so try this Asian-inspired dessert.

Mango Pudding
serves 4-6

3 ripe mangoes--diced
3 tsp gelatin (1 packet)
1/2 c. hot water
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. coconut milk

In a blender, puree the diced mango until smooth. In a saucepan, heat water until it reaches a rolling boil. While stiring the water with a whisk, slowly add in the gelatin until it has dissolved and there are no gelatin chunks. Add the sugar to the water/gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour this water mixture into the blender with the mango and then add the coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Run pudding through a strainer to eliminate any chunks and pour into serving bowls. Refrigerate for 2 hrs to 24 hrs. I topped each pudding with a small basil leaf but these would also be great served with a little whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, August 29, 2011

coconut macaroons

These coconut macaroons were the party favorite. I wasn't a coconut lover until my French sister-in-law, Morgane, made coconut macaroons and I fell in love with these bite-size cookies. These coconut macaroons have a chewy, sweet center and a golden crust that makes these nearly impossible to stop eating. They take less than 30 minutes to make and will please any crowd. Morgane not only introduced me to coconut macaroons but also taught me pretty much everything I know about my camera and I know these macaroons and this picture live up to her standards! I am visiting her and my older brother in California in a few weeks and can't wait to get a few camera schooling sessions in because I swear you can never know enough about your camera. I hope I can capture food as well as she can capture people one day, check out her photography website.

Coconut Macaroons (Rochers au Coco)
makes 22 macaroons

4 egg whites
3 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Stir together egg whites, coconut, sugar and vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and using the double boiler method, set the bowl over a pan filled with 2 inches of simmering water. Heat mixture until it has thickened, about 7-9 minutes and immediately spoon 2 inch scoops onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You will know the mixture has thickened enough if the scoop can hold its shape without liquid puddling around the bottom. Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool cookies on the baking sheet, this gives the bottom of the cookies a perfect crunch (this is the best part). 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

foodbuzz 24x24: 9 wonderful desserts of the world

Who would want to make 9 desserts in one day? Uh I would! When I found out Foodbuzz (a social network for food bloggers and food lovers) had chosen to sponsor my 9 'wonder'ful desserts of the world party idea to be a part of this month's Foodbuzz 24x24 event, I was beyond excited. Foodbuzz 24x24 is where 24 food bloggers each host a dinner or in this case a dessert party on the same day and share their parties on each of their blogs. It was a great excuse to have friends over and use more butter than I ever have in one day. For the menu, I chose a few of the desserts from countries I have been to and the rest from countries I will hopefully get a chance to visit one day!

Pictured--top left to right:
USA: s'mores cookies (I couldn't resist after making s'mores pizza last week)
France: coconut macaroons
India: gajar halwa -- carrot pudding
Argentina: alfajores -- dulce de leche cookies
Spain: churros
Australia: sticky date pudding with toffee sauce
Singapore: mango pudding
Switzerland: spitzbuebe -- raspberry preserve filled sandwich cookies
New Zealand: hokey pokey ice cream

Everyone seemed to have a different favorite dessert but I'd say the coconut macaroons were the overall favorite considering there wasn't one left! My favorite was the New Zealand hockey pockey ice cream, I can't wait to share the recipe. Between friends, desserts, beer and the game 'battle of the sexes' it was a fun night and despite all the work I am happy to say I would love to do it again. This week I will post the recipes for each dessert in between eating the leftovers. I knew there was no way we could finish all the desserts so I had chinese take-out boxes for everyone to take home their favorite desserts. I already have a take-out box packed and ready to take to work tomorrow. The hard part is deciding which dessert to eat first.

What is your favorite dessert from a different country? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

s'mores pizza

There have been so many variations of s'mores posted throughout the food blog world recently and I wanted to create a unique version of the classic s'more. I mean I have always loved a good s'more but never been a die hard fan. However, this pizza makes me hope the s'more craze never ends because now I want to try all the other s'more creations out there. I made a flatbread like pizza crust and brushed it with melted butter, topped it with graham cracker crumbs, mini Hershey's bars and mini marshmallows. Throw the pizza in the oven and in twenty minutes you get a perfectly melty, chocolatey, marshmallowy s'more that is gooey and absolutely to die for. I do have to admit I was so excited to take a bite of this pizza that I hardly spent any time trying to get a good shot. Not the best food blogger practice but I'm just impressed I managed to get a picture at all. This pizza didn't last long and I'm already thinking about my next s'more creation. Any suggestions? 

S'mores Pizza

for pizza dough
recipe from allrecipes

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar
1 c. warm water (110 degrees F)

for pizza toppings
1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar
4 graham crackers, crumbled
3 cups of marshmallows
15 fun sized Hershey's bars, broken into smaller pieces

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and water. Kneed dough with your hands and roll out half of the dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet. I only used half of the pizza dough so if you want to use the entire dough then double the amount of pizza toppings. 

Once the pizza dough is rolled out, brush melted butter on pizza dough and sprinkle pizza edges with sugar. Top pizza with graham cracker crumbs, chocolate pieces, marshmallows. Bake pizza for 20 minutes. Eat right out of the oven! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

grilled peach & prosciutto pizza

Summer is over when school starts, right? Um wrong. I feel like summer passes me by now that I have a job that keeps me at a desk all day. Lucky for me, the farmers market reminds me weekly that summer is still in full swing with their delicious produce. I get so excited when I see peaches arrive at the farmer's market each summer. A juicy, ripe peach is hard to beat and this pizza is the perfect showcase for them. This recipe is summer on a pizza with grilled caramelized peaches, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and cilantro. Usually I prefer more of a thick, chewy pizza crust but this flatbread like pizza dough was slightly crispy and didn't overpower the toppings. I only used half of the dough for this peach and prosciutto pizza so I could use the other half for a different pizza creation sometime later this week (thinking s'mores pizza). I feel like I cheated on the grill a little by "grilling" these peaches on a lean mean grilling machine because I wanted to grill each individual peach slice. But it worked surprisingly well and I didn't have to worry about the slices falling to the bottom of the grill and creating a mess. 

Grilled Peach & Prosciutto Pizza

for pizza dough:
recipe from allrecipes

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar
1 c. warm water (110 degrees F)

for pizza toppings:
2 peaches, sliced and grilled for 2-3 minutes 
a ball of fresh mozzarella
8 slices of prosciutto
handful of parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and water. Kneed dough with your hands and roll out half of the dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet. If you want to use the entire dough then double the amount of pizza toppings. 

Cut individual peach slices and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Top pizza with parmesan, thinly- sliced mozzarella slices, peach slices and prosciutto pieces. Bake pizza for 20-25 minutes. Top pizza with cilantro before serving. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

chocolate & cinnamon chip oatmeal cookies

You know how there are those little details you know about all your close friends and family? One of those details that all my friends and family know about me is I love cinnamon, like a lot. So when I discovered cinnamon chips, I was beyond excited. After searching the baking aisles of countless grocery stores I finally found them in the clearance section one day. I bought all the bags they had and decided to save them for a special occasion. I hate when I do that, I buy something I love and then wait to use it for a 'special occasion.' When will I learn that every day is a special occasion? So I dug these cinnamon chips out of my pantry and baked a fresh batch of oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and cinnamon chips. Crispy edges, a chewy center and cinnamon chips make this cookie stand out from the rest. If you are lucky enough to find cinnamon chips at your grocery store these cookies are perfect for any 'special occasion.'

Chocolate & Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies
makes 30 large cookies 

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 c. quick-cooking oats
1 c. cinnamon chips
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

In a large bowl, beat together butter, shortening and both sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Then add vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture. Then stir in oats and once combined, stir in cinnamon chips and chocolate chips. Bake large cookies for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

banana muffins with crunchy pecan topping

Monday morning I started boot camp at the gym, I can't believe I am actually able to roll out of bed before 6 am and get my butt to the gym. Luckily I'm a morning person and the hardest part about boot camp for me is getting out the door. After finishing an hour of boot camp torture (in a good for me kind of way) I can't wait to eat! I am always looking for a grab and go breakfast I can eat on my way to work and the dozen bananas I had in the freezer were begging to be used. The eggless banana bread I posted a couple weeks ago was delicious but I couldn't resist making these banana muffins to have for a quick breakfast. But while I was scooping the mixture into the muffin tins I realized that these needed something extra.  And that's when the crunchy, sweet, buttery topping came in. This topping reminds me of the pecan pralines you can buy or sample at those candy stores on Market St. in Charleston, SC. These banana muffins aren't necessarily as healthy as I first intended but they do have lots of banana in them. Make these muffins with or without the topping but if you make them with it, you won't regret it! 

Banana Muffins with Crunchy Pecan Topping
recipe adapted from: Joy the Baker

for the muffins:
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. old-fashioned oats 
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp canola oil
1 egg, beaten
2 egg whites, beaten
3 large bananas, mashed

for the crunchy pecan topping:
1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick), softened 
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans 
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, mash bananas and then add the canola oil and whole egg into the same bowl and mix. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and mix well. In a separate medium sized bowl, beat egg whites until medium stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions. For the crunchy pecan topping, mix together the butter, sugar, pecans and cinnamon in a clean bowl and add it to the top of each muffin before putting them in the oven. Grease muffin tin and bake muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a the toothpick test comes out clean. If you want to make this into banana bread, bake for 45-50 minutes. This made 13 regular sized muffins for me. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

roasted edamame & corn salad

I started a new page of this blog dedicated to my food life outside of the kitchen. One of my guilty pleasures is eating out and I want to share some of my restaurant experiences with you. So if you live in Charlotte, NC (or even if you don't) check out my out & about page!

I picked an Italian restaurant, Mama Ricotta's, this weekend for date night and now have breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next five days from the leftovers. I rarely eat Italian because when I do it leaves me feeling so full that I don't want to eat it again for months. But I realized that pasta dishes are really best the day after or three days after if you have as many leftovers as I do. I decided I needed a healthy snack to eat in between pasta leftovers for the week and this edamame salad hits the spot. I normally buy edamame in the pods and sprinkle it with salt or dip it in ginger dressing but this salad was a good change. With edamame, corn off the cob, tomatoes, fresh basil and a little bit of red wine vinegar this salad can't get much healthier. It would make a great side at dinner or as a protein-packed lunch option.

Roasted Edamame & Corn Salad
recipe adapted from: Food Network

1 16 oz. bag of shelled frozen edamame
1 c. corn (4 ears), fresh or frozen
1/4 c. scallion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 c. tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Rinse your edamame before using it. Add rinsed edamame to boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Drain edamame and let cool for 15-20 minutes. While it is cooling, place a 13x9 pan into the preheated oven and let it get hot. Pull the hot pan out of the oven and add the edamame to the pan. Add the corn, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper into the pan with the edamame. Stir together and put back into the oven for 10-15 minutes or until edamame starts to slightly brown. Once it has browned, remove pan from the oven and cool for 30 minutes to an hour. Once the dish has cooled, add the tomatoes, basil, and red wine vinegar and toss together. Serve room-temperature or cold.
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