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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Roasted Tomato Soup

Ever have some produce in your fridge that was just starting to go bad? Before I started mastering home economics, I would simply throw it out. Now, I have learned to use what I can in creative ways. So I made this roasted tomato soup with thyme,onion,and garlic; all of which I need to use up.
The recipe is simple. Simply throw everything in a pan (skins and all), drizzle with olive oil and season salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350 until soft. Puree and add water and additional seasoning to taste. I added sugar, dried italian seasoning and nutmeg. You could add cumin, chipotle peppers, and sour cream or bourbon and bacon ...
You're only limited by your imagination. Enjoy!

Broccoli and cheese soup

Fresh Strawberry sauce

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No comments from the Peanut Gallery: Peanut butter pudding

Peanut Butter Pudding

I have been on an unintended pudding kick. Don't get me wrong, I was that kid that wanted pudding in my daily school lunch, but I moved away from it. Now, I find myself constantly craving creamy, cool, pudding. Constantly making chocolate pudding because I have the ingredients on hand, can get old. 

Successfully making vanilla pudding, made me question what other flavors could be made. A few months ago, Joy the Baker suggested making chocolate and peanut butter pudding, but I ignored it because I did not have many of the ingredients on hand. However, the concept of peanut butter pudding intrigued me. After some google searches, I decided to make a small batch of peanut butter pudding to use as a garnish to my chocolate pudding. I was smart to make a small batch because this baby is rich! Use with caution!

This recipe was adapted from the peanut butter pudding recipe, found here. 

I decided to only make half of this recipe, but increase the peanut butter. To make a small batch:

Sift together 1/4 c of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of 2% milk and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and it bubbles around the perimeter of the pot. Take off of heat and whisk in 1/2 c creamy peanut butter and 1 tsp vanilla paste. Pour into serving container(s) and place a piece of cling wrap directly on the pudding and chill for at least 2 hours.

Here are some ideas for serving:

First, this rich pudding can be eaten alone, but you can kick it up by:

  • Remixing the banana pudding, by adding sliced bananas and cookies (graham crackers, ginger snaps, Nilla Wafers or Oreos).
  • With cinnamon whipped cream
  • With chocolate pudding as a Reese's Parfait (as I did in the picture above).
  • With chips: chocolate (white, dark, etc.), toffee, peanut butter, or cinnamon.

How would you eat your Peanut Butter Pudding?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting into some Purple Reign

Purple Peppermint Patties aka The Raven

Purple Reign

As you know by now, The Baltimore Ravens won the Superbowl. Seeing as though I live in Charm City, I hosted AFC and Superbowl parties in my home. As the hostess supreme, I had to come up with something purple and meaningful for the Ravens, so I came up with purple velvet cupcakes (Purple Reign) and purple peppermint patties (The Raven). Both were a hit; and quite lucky, if I do say so myself.  Cheers!

Take a look at the batter for the Purple Reign (velvet) cupcakes above. While the batter had a slight purple tinge to it, when baked, they turned brown. I used red and blue food coloring to color the batter. I do not recommend going that route. Instead, get some food coloring paste; that's what I used in the frosting. The difference in ease and coloring was astounding. 

I used the world famous Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe, found here, with one minor tweak: I used White Lilly flour instead of cake flour and had no issues. The cake was moist and as light as air. In fact, many people found themselves scarfing down more than one cupcake at a time, due to the airiness of the cake. Consider yourself warned.  

This icing, too, was as light as air. Again, I used White Lily flour, and I used 4-5 1/2 tablespoons of it; I literally lost count and hoped for the best. It turned out divinely and people raved about it. Also adding to the lightness of the icing was the use of skim milk.  That said, you can find the original recipe here. I wouldn't recommend using a butter cream frosting for this recipe; it may be too heavy.

Finished Product. Some have mini chocolate chips to add dimension. 
Icing tips to make piping easier.

The Raven

The minty filling of the Raven. Some were heart shaped; other were regularly formed. 

This recipe was originally scheduled to be a part of my holiday treat boxes, but when I got ill, they were shelved. That said, I had everything on hand to make this recipe; including the food coloring paste. I made a few tweaks to the recipe, to wit: 1/4 each of peppermint and vanilla extracts to the insides and  a hefty dash of peppermint extract in the chocolate coating ( I used regular chocolate chips for this). That said, this recipe is pretty fool proof and adjustable to your tastes. The original recipe is found here.  They keep nicely in the freezer, too. In fact, that is where I recommend that you store them. 

One last thing: Wondering what you should do with the remaining evaporated milk? Make my vanilla ice cream pudding! 

Take care and let your team spirit shine,


Friday, February 1, 2013

Vanilla Pudding

Double Vanilla "Ice Cream" Pudding

If you read this blog regularly, you know that my inspiration materializes from my desire to use ingredients that I already have on hand. See, I will become enamored with a recipe, have to try it, purchase the ingredients, and then get stuck with the remnants of said ingredients. If the ingredient is ubiquitous like chicken, I'd have no waste. But what do you do with something like an opened can of evaporated milk? Can you use this milk on cereal? Can you freeze it? How long does it keep in the fridge? My mind was aflutter with questions. To be on the safe side, I decided that I would find a recipe that called for at least a cup of evaporated milk. My first point of research was the can itself.  I noticed that the can proudly branded itself as "the cooking milk." So, I thought about recipes that called for milk and immediately recalled my last post for chocolate pudding. 

I'm aware that vanilla pudding is its own delight and should be treated as such, so I consulted several recipes and decided to use this recipe, with some tweaks. My recipe calls for two types of milk, so I thought, "Self, why not use two types of vanilla." The end result yielded a soft, creamy pudding that tastes like soft-serve vanilla bean ice cream; the good kind. I recommend using the best vanilla that you can get your hands on. Also, if you cannot access vanilla paste, but have vanilla beans on hand, use that. Simply steep the vanilla pods in the milks. Have vanilla sugar? Use that-I'm sure you get my drift. 

Happy cooking and Go Ravens! 


1 1/4 c evaporated milk
3/4 c whole milk
3 tblsp* cornstarch
1/2 c white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tblsp unsalted butter

Warm the milks to a bubble over medium heat. Meanwhile combine salt, sugar, and cornstarch together. When the milk is ready, sift the dry ingredients into the hot milk. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture coats one side of the utensil, but do not boil. When ready, take off of the heat and whisk in butter and vanilla flavorings. Pour into serving containers and chill. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin forming. 

*This makes a soft-serve texture. If you'd like a firmer pudding, you may want to increase the amount of cornstarch. Naturally, you should sift in the additional cornstarch; this helps to minimize the risk of lumps.

Can you see the specks of vanilla beans? 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chocolate Pudding

Double Chocolate Pudding

I have plenty of chocolate on hand. I have cocoa powder, mini chocolate morsels, dark, semi and milk chocolate baking disks, etc. Since, they'll keep, I didn't have to make anything, but I was bombarded with images of pudding. See, I am a my fan of the television show Scandal. On it, there is a character called Edison, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Bill Cosby. The pudding jokes were everywhere and endless. Couple that with my other adoration, Pinterest, where a plethora of chocolate pudding recipes suddenly appeared, and I figured that the universe was trying to tell me something: make some pudding. When I glanced at some of the recipes, I found that I had everything that I needed to make this favorite. I chose a recipe without eggs, and that I thought I could experiment with; in essence, a template. I choose to make this recipe somewhat straightforward, but you could add coconut extract and garnish with toasted coconut. Or maybe some peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies. Perhaps you can add a dollop of peanut butter or hazelnut. How would you customize your pudding?

This recipe was based on the Simple Chocolate Pudding recipe 

The List:

1/2 c sugar
3 tblsp cocoa powder
1/4 c cornstarch to start (you may need to add more if the mixture isn't thickening. Make sure to sift this in. Otherwise, it will be lumpy).
1/8 tsp salt
2 3/4-3 c milk (go buy feel. The weather will impact ingredients).
1-2 tbls butter (depends on the milk used. If using full fat milk, you can reduce the butter. If you're using reduced fat milk, increase your butter).
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 bag of chocolate morsels*
Sift the dry ingredients to fully incorporate the ingredients and to smooth out lumps. Then add milk and heat. Whisk continually until there are no lumps and mixture is thickened. You may need to add more cornstarch; just be sure to mix well. Or sift it in; your choice.When the mixture is just starting to boil, take it off of the heat.

*this makes very smooth and creamy. It also gives the pudding an extra boost of chocolate flavor. You can skip this step, but then it wouldn't be double chocolate pudding, right? I melted my morsels over a double boiler and then added it to the pudding, off of heat, with the butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and then chill in the fridge for 3 hours. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm wishing you Joy... Almond Joys

An Almond Joy Gallery

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my kitchen. @MoshJosh, this one is for you!

As you may know, I made cookies and treat boxes as 2012 Christmas gifts. They were a hit! At some point, I'll probably discuss all of the recipes in detail, but I wanted to talk about the Crispy Coconut Cookie. This cookie was borne out of necessity: I had all of the ingredients on hand and needed another treat to take the place of a nut free-alternative. Yes, I'm aware of  that almonds are nuts, but the original recipe does not call for nuts, and is delicious as is. In fact, many people (especially those who don't particularly care for coconut) prefer it that way. 

This recipe is a three part process. You have to toast the coconut, but it does cool rather quickly; which means that you can proceed with the rest of the recipe whilst the coconut is cooling. I do, however, recommend that you allow the recipe to cool/rest before attempting to roll it out and cut the shapes. That said, plan ahead! I cannot provide a yield for these cookies, as it depends on the size and shape of your cookie cutters. Just know that I used a medium-sized star shape and had about 45 cookies.  

My jar full of coconut cookies...the basis of the recipes.

Crispy Coconut Cookie adapted from Joy the Baker.


1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Spread the coconut on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes stirring once, until the coconut becomes evenly golden. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside. 
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract and mix until completely blended.  On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Use a large spoon to stir in the toasted coconut.

Divide the dough into two portions and pat into a flat rectangle. Wrap up the dough and chill until easy to roll out, about 45 minutes. Roll out the dough on a well floured board and cut with a small to medium sized cookie cutters. Since I was making this for Christmas, I chose stars. 
Place the cookie cut-outs on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes. Cooking times will vary due to the thickness of the cookie, so keep watch! If you do make a batch too crispy, like I did, simply glaze the cookie with coconut glaze and its accoutrement or use the ganache and or almonds and coconut. 
Tip: to expedite the setting process, place the cookies, on a flat surface, in the freezer for five (5) minutes. 

I promised you an Almond Joy gallery, right? Right! How about some cake?

Almond Joy Cake

This recipe is based on the Almond Joy Bread recipe, which you can find here. In order to make the recipe more cake-like, bake it in a 13 x 9 inch pans or 2-3 8/9" rounds. Make sure you butter and flour the pans well. In fact, I recommend that you use some parchment paper. This recipe calls for oil and butter, you can use all butter to increase the richness and make it more of a cake. Finally, the recipe calls for a drizzle of chocolate. As you can tell from the pictures, I essentially covered the cake with chocolate and drizzled with almonds. You could also use coconut. Use your imagination. If I didn't have so much ganache, I probably would have drizzled both white and regular chocolate. Just imagine... 

Coconut Glaze

1 1/2-2 cups of sugar
1/2 -3/4 cup of water
1 tblsp of coconut oil
1 tsp coconut extract

Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and let come to a rapid boil. Let cool, so that it may thicken. Complete the glaze as soon as the cake is in the oven and/or when the cookies are chilling in the fridge. After a 1/2 an hour, taste to check for sweetness. Add sugar and boil as needed, until the desired sweetness is reached. Remember that this glaze will be layered with other sweet elements, so don't look for a coconut flavored lollipop! The longer it chills, the thicker it typically becomes. Adjust with water until you reach the consistency that you desire. 

The Almond Joy bread recipe calls for you to brush the poked bread with the coconut glaze. You can also brush (or dip) the coconut cookies with the glaze and do one or more the following: 1. leave alone 2. sprinkle with sugar 3. sprinkle with almonds 4. sprinkle with coconut or 5. finely chop almonds and coconut and sprinkle on top.

The Ganache

When I make a ganache, I usually mix a few chocolate chips together. I always start with a dark chocolate (a fave of mine) and then mix in some semi-sweet and/or milk chocolate chips, which is what I did below. I also melted in some coconut oil to give it a gloss and spreadable quality. If you don't have coconut oil on hand, use whatever flavorless oil you have; butter can be used in a pinch, too.  I melt my chocolate by placing my stainless steel mixing bowl over a pot of simmering to boiling water. I let sit for 3 minutes and then stir together, over the water, with a whisk. Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and place on a heat proof surface.

Tip: this is the last step that you should do, once everything has been baked and cool. Otherwise, you run the risk of having the chocolate harden on you.  

I call this the "melange" of chocolate. 
Another gratuitous photos. Eat your heart out, Instagram!
Dipping the star cookies. Using the coconut oil in the ganache makes the chocolate super shiny.
Ready for coconut, almonds, and/or both!

The finished product!

Bonus Recipe! Almond Joy Cupcakes

Do you have any almond joy-like recipes? If, so please share in the comments. Cheers!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


New Year's Greens

Tis the time of year to eat your greens! In my community, eating greens in the new year symbolizes money and prosperity. Because of this, it is hard to find greens and many people have to use canned or frozen greens. If you are lucky enough to find them, I urge you to use fresh greens. I'm aware that many of you may not know how to process fresh greens. That's ok; I'm here to help. In this tutorial, I am using fresh collard greens from the farmer's market and I process them down for current and future use. I am not, however, providing you a recipe for cooking greens. That, I would like to hear from you. Oh, and before you process all of the leaves, save a few for the bonus recipe. Cheers! And Happy New Years! I wish you and your family all of the best and as much prosperity as you can fit your appetite.

First wash your greens in a large container or sink. I do not use any soap. I just fill the sink with water and then rub a few leaves together. Swish them in the water, letting the dirt to fall to the bottom of the sink. 
Once the leaves are clean, drop them in rapidly boiling, unsalted water. Boil them just enough for the leaves to wilt. Then, place them in a pot with ice cold water to stop the cooking process. 
The boiling greens! Be careful! They are extremely hot!

Place wilted and cooled greens in  a ziplock bag for freezing; make sure that you squeeze out as much air as possible!

Bonus Recipe!

Before you process the greens, take a few out to make collar green chips! Simply drizzle a few leaves with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and nutmeg. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp. Eat immediately.

Homemade Gifts: A Tale of Ingenuity

Hi there.

How's it been going for you? Over the last few weeks, I have been toiling away making homemade gifts. Mind you, as a self-employed person, I always planned on making gifts. Had I planned on making them so soon? Nope!

That is, my mother and her sisters decided to visit their brother and wanted me to make him a sweet potato bread.  Oh,  and they wanted me to make it diabetic friendly. And they wanted to leave Saturday morning at 10 am. Did I tell you that they told me this on Friday afternoon? I didn't? Well, it happened.
So, the moral of the story is this: always have basic ingredients on hand to whip up something delicious on the fly. And always have a trusted source from which you can always pull recipes. Before the Internet and it's infinite food blogs, that source was Southern Living. What's yours?

Anyhoo, I decided to mail out a package of spiced sweet potato bread (sweetened with splenda) and cinnamon honey butter, banana peanut butter bread with chocolate chips, leftover cinnamon pecan biscotti, mild Chili cheese hearts, and popped dome popcorn. I also included chocolate truffles, chocolate coconut truffles, white chocolate lemon truffles and white chocolate coconut truffles.  They were all a hit.

You can check out the end results below. Did you do anything creative for your Christmas gifts? If so, what did you do?