Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Corn and Bean Salad

One of my favorite "games" to play in the kitchen is raiding the cupboards and finding all the things that need to be used up before a big cleaning day or a move. Weston will be moving out of his current apartment in a few weeks and so he asked me to see what I could make with the stuff in the cabinets. Since I didn't have access to a car, this challenge was especially difficult because I couldn't go to the store for supplementary ingredients. I am proud to say this did not deter me from making an amazing dinner (and lunch for the next couple of days).

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained - or 3 ears fresh corn (grilled corn for extra flavor)
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups chopped red cabbage
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
3 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh onion, chopped
(if I'd been able to go to the store, I'd add 1 cup torn basil leaves)

I know this is primarily a canned salad and the thought of that is kind of... not too exciting to some people. But it's a good way to get rid of things you might have on hand - and the flavors are surprisingly perky. Also, note that I did incorporate some very fresh ingredients like onion, vinegar, and cabbage. If you add basil, that's another POP flavor, too.

Make a vinaigrette with the oil, vinegar, spices, and mustard. Mix together the beans, corn, tomatoes, and cabbage. Then toss with the vinaigrette and finally add the torn basil leaves.

Serve chilled.

Accompany this dish with roasted chicken. We buy Amish chicken on sale and freeze it for a rainy day. Pick of the Chick is a butchered, whole chicken and I like it because you get a nice variety of dark and white meat. The white meat I cube and throw into the salad, while the dark, I serve alongside. Just defrost the chicken, trim off the fat, and spoon over some olive oil, salt and pepper, and my secret ingredient: sage. Bake at 350 until the juices run clear - about 35 minutes. By slow roasting, the chicken stays moist and the outside gets nice and crispy :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bake Date Revival: Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Bars

I can't pick a favorite close up

Last summer a few friends and I met every month for a baking day. We planned the menu beforehand and divided the ingredient lists amongst the 4 of us. But after moving to Richmond, and the other girls to their own areas, coordinating a baking day became a little challenging. Happily, one of the crew, Patti, was staying in Ann Arbor so we were able to revive the tradition this past week.

Patti and I are (in)famous for our desire to "pick" at things. Cutting a piece of cake does not satisfy us - we like to eat the little nibblets that fall off the piece of cake. Or the gooey gob of cheese that comes off when you pull your piece of pizza away from the pie. Get it?

So we picked a recipe that would allow us to fulfill this pleasure: Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Bars! Not only are there lots of bits that fall off - each ingredient is a pickers paradise as well! I had first seen pictures of these from Patti a while back, but the original recipe comes from Pink Parsley's site (and I think it even has a history from there, too).

What you need:

For the oatmeal cookie layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

For the fudge layer:
2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free and I recommend you do, too because the bars are really sweet)
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (you can probably use a little less if you want)
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Reese's pieces, for the topping

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

Cream 1/2 cup of the butter with the sugar until well-combined. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer, just make sure you soften the butter in the microwave.

Press two-thirds of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of the pan, and set aside the rest for the topping.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Cook over medium or medium-low heat until the chocolate and butter are melted, stirring often otherwise the chocolate can burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. We poured all the sauce over the oatmeal layer, but you can save some as a fudgy sauce for ice cream if you don't want a thick layer of chocolate. Spread it over the oatmeal cookie layer with a spatula.

Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the fudge, then sprinkle with the candy.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the topping is starting to brown. The top will be cooked, but it's hard to tell about the bottom because you have to cut through the fudge layer, which is basically still sauce because it hasn't set up yet. Ideally, you should let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours to set completely. Cut into squares and serve, or store at room temperature (or in the fridge on a hot day).

These are SWEEEET so trust me and just cut off a little square, unless you want to risk a full-blown sugar shock :) Patti and I couldn't wait for them to cool so we ate them warm - yeah, even for us it was a little much. So Patti threw them in the freezer and they set up nicely. Point is: if you're in a hurry, freeze them for about 40 minutes, cut them, then freeze as individual bars. If you have time, then follow the recipe and keep them in the fridge. If you have no time at all, just spoon it out over ice cream. See how versatile this recipe is?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fusilli with Shrimp and Orange Segments

It's the time of year when the whole country gets too hot to handle. I'm in Ann Arbor seeing friends this week, but I was in the mood for a fresh and light dinner salad. And when I think fresh and summery - bright colors come to mind. This salad is perfect: the orange slices give it a pop of flavor and the shrimp adds protein and a gorgeous pink color. With ripe, red tomatoes peeking through the pasta, this meal is wonderful for any time of day.

What You Need

2 oranges, segmented + the juice
salt, pepper
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 lemon, zest and juice
15-20 olives, sliced lengthwise
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, whole or cut in half
1, 4 oz block of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
1 pound shrimp, frozen or fresh, tails off
1 pound fusilli

What You Do

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water.
Make a vinaigrette using 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 Tbs Dijon mustard, and the orange juice. Set aside.
Pour the vinaigrette over the pasta and let cool.
Defrost the shrimp if using frozen and fry it in olive oil until it is just pink
Season with salt and pepper and set aside
Use your knife to chip off bits of Parmesan cheese and set these aside.
Mix the shrimp, tomatoes, and olives into the pasta and season again with salt and red pepper flakes.
Finally, top with the Parmesan cheese (you don't want it to melt so you need the pasta to have cooled off).
Serve immediately or put the whole thing in the fridge and serve chilled.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bonkers for Banana Bread!

This recipe has been in our house for ages - it really stands apart from any other one I've found, seeing as it is so moist and light. The combination of vinegar and baking soda is so perfect - remember those middle school explosions when we'd mix the two together? Well, the same things happens here, making the texture super moist. I think this is probably classified as more of a "cake," but it's a wonderful substitute for the traditional "bread" so many people make.

Seriously, throw aside the banana baked-goods recipe you have and give this one a try. I guarantee it'll be the new staple in your home.

Quick and Easy Banana Snacking Cake
from: Laura Wood (I don't know who she is, but she's a genius!!!!)

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 super ripe banana, mashed
1 ripe banana, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs vinegar
1/3 cup oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, with the banana being last. Mix just to combine, don't beat. Pour into an 8x8 inch Pyrex (greased and floured). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

*if you want to make this extra special, add a 1/2 cup mini chocolate morsels into the batter

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sava's, an Ann Arbor tradition in the making

Sava's started out as a cute little diner on State Street specializing in sandwiches and breakfast goodies...oh! and crepes. Over time, the traffic from students and locals was so good, Sava purchased the newly vacated restaurant space across the street - I think it's almost triple the size of her old location. Sava's specializes in fresh, flavorful soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches. They also do a mean grilled cheese croissant and have some wonderful specials. Some of the most special things about their menu is that it is very affordable and the flavor combinations are extremely creative.

I was lucky enough to meet up with my two co-workers from last summer this afternoon and here's what we had:

Ed had the Yellowfin tuna salad with quinoa, capers, and a lovely vinaigrette served over a bed of spinach

Maryann and I had burgers - mine was topped with Gouda and shaved prosciutto. It was a very yummy combination!

It was wonderful catching up with friends and I look forward to sharing more stories next time we see each other!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cake Challenge: White Chocolate Raspberry Fantasy Cake

What you see pictured here is a White Chocolate Raspberry Fantasy Cake. It's delicious. I mean, there's no denying that. But the cake itself takes 2 days to make and has about 25 steps associated with it. The cost is also extreme since you need white chocolate. And I don't mean chips - I mean tempered, white chocolate blocks from a specialty store. Not even Whole Foods chocolate blocks can cut it, only a legit baking shop like Schakolad. I lovingly call it the cake from H-E-... because it is SO high maintenance.

We made this for my sister's high school graduation party and followed the recipe exactly, and I've posted it here. My mom has the recipe (originally posted in Better Homes and Gardens) pasted onto an old index card, but I found it online here. At the bottom are my tips :)


4 large eggs, divided

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely shredded

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped (such as Lindt)

3/4 cup half-and-half

1/3 cup margarine or 1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup fresh raspberries or 1 cup sliced strawberries

3 tablespoons raspberry liqueur or 3 tablespoons raspberry extract

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam or 1/3 cup strawberry jam, at room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar, to dust

1/2 cup fresh raspberries, for garnishing


4 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped ( such as Lindt)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon cold water

1/2 teaspoon plain gelatin powder ( such as Knox)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

White Chocolate Curls

4 -6 ounces white chocolate, at room temperature


1. CAKE: Separate eggs and place egg whites into a large mixing bowl and set aside; place yolks into a small bowl and set aside.

2. Combine flour, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. Melt the 3 ounces chopped white chocolate with 1/4 cup of the half n half in a small pan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate begins to melt- immediately remove from heat and stir until smooth.

4. Stir remaining half-and-half into the chocolate and let cool.

5. Cream margarine or butter with granulated sugar on high speed until soft and fluffy.

6. Beat in vanilla.

7. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after adding each.

8. Alternately add the flour mixture and the chocolate mixture, beating on medium-low speed after each addition, just enough to combine (don't over beat).

9. Beat egg whites using clean beaters on high speed until stiff peaks form (this may take some time).

10. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, then spread into 2 greased and floured 8" round baking pans.

11. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean.

12. Let cake cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely.

13. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the berries and raspberry liqueur or extract, place covered in fridge until needed.

14. CURLS: Using a veggie peeler, carefully drag the peeler across the broad surface of the bar of white chocolate over sheets of wax paper- curls of peeled chocolate will fall.

15. Carefully arrange in a single layer in an airtight plastic container and chill (amount you make is up to you- you will want enough to completely cover the top of the cake at least).


17. Have ready a chilled mixing bowl and chilled beaters.

18. Combine 1/4 cup cream and the white chocolate in a small pan and heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until starts to melt; remove from heat and keep stirring until smooth.

19. Let cool completely.

20. Have a small pan heating to a boil (just a few inches of water).

21. Combine cold water and gelatin powder in a 1-cup glass measure and let stand 2 minutes.

22. Place measuring cup into the boiling water (wear kitchen mitts) and heat and stir until gelatin is dissolved (or place in microwave for a few seconds until dissolved).

23. Using the chilled bowl and beaters, whip the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream and sugar on medium speed, while gradually drizzling in the gelatin mixture.

24. Beat until soft peaks form.

25. Continue beating, while adding the cooled chocolate mixture, this time beating until stiff peaks form- do not over beat.

26. Use immediately to frost cake.

27. TO ASSEMBLE: Place 3 large squares of wax paper onto the cake plate, overlapping edges and letting sides hang over the plate (these will be pulled out later).

28. Place one cake layer onto the wax paper.

29. Set berry mixture into a strainer over a small bowl and let juices drain.

30. Using a pastry brush, brush the liquid over the cake layer.

31. Stir jam to soften and spread over the cake layer.

32. Top with 1/3 of the frosting and spoon 1 cup of the berries on top.

33. Place remaining cake layer on top and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

34. Garnish with curls and gently pull out the wax paper sheets.

35. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill up to 24 hours, if needed.

36. Just before serving, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup plain berries and dust with powdered sugar.

Words of Wisdom:

  • The lemon zest adds a lot of flavor, so you can increase it by a little.
  • We use good quality raspberry jam with seeds and then strain it ourselves so it gets nice and thick.
  • The trickiest part is the White Chocolate Frosting. The key is to use really good chocolate because otherwise the whole thing can curdle and you have sweet butter and a whole lot of cream for your coffee. Also, we recommend adding all the cream at once - even the part that has the white chocolate in it, because otherwise the cream will fall due to the temp difference and the fact that you are adding something really heavy to it. The gelatin can go in whenever.
  • You can use white chocolate chips in the cake, but you must use great quality white chocolate for the frosting and the curls.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Best Cupcakes in Ann Arbor

    If you're looking for cupcakes in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there are two options besides going to the grocery store and purchasing one of those, umm, is "nasty" too strong of a word...things in the "Bakery" section.

    The first is a legit bakery specializing in specialty cakes called Cake Nouveau. I have had their cupcakes, way back when, maybe 2 years ago and I didn't like them very much. The cake wasn't fluffy, but dense, dry, and had that taste of having been frozen and then thawed out. Their frosting wasn't great either - it was fluffy, which I love, but the flavor didn't taste real. But maybe they've changed their strategy since then. I looked them up online and saw that they only do cupcakes Friday and Saturday, so it's clear they focus on their cakes. I sampled a slice of their cake, too, and, while beautiful, I didn't think it's flavor was very good, either. My opinion; I know others who'd disagree. I just hate feeling like I am eating a puffball - cake should be dense and flavorful. FYI: The owner, Courtney Clark, has won quite a few awards for her decorated cakes and has been on Food Network Challenge a few times. After watching the episodes, I was really turned off by some of the things she said and the way she acted. That, coupled with the under-delivery of the cupcakes led to my decision to stop going to the shop.

    The pictures above and below are from my latest trip to The Cupcake Station. It is a Michigan only chain - they have about 4 locations. This place I love! It is a true cupcake shop - they have about 14+ kinds of cupcakes daily, all sitting in a glass case. The decorations are cute and detailed and they keep making fresh cupcakes throughout the day so you always get the flavor you want. Seriously, they need to expand because I have never, ever found a cupcake to match their quality and satisfying, lip-smacking buttercream. Even at the Magnolia Bakery in New York, I found the cream a bit too sweet. My fav flavor is Bumpy Cake, a Michigan treat which I'll save for another post. They stuff a lot of their cupcakes with frosting, too, so you always have a nice ratio of cake-to-cream. And the decor is sooo pretty: they have giant pictures of cupcakes lining the walls. I contacted the store manager to get the name of who did them, but haven't gotten around to purchasing one for my own room. The Cupcake Station does yummy bars and cookies, too. They also offer Vegan cupcakes and puddings. And every day of the week there is a special. At $2.50 a cupcake, this place is affordable and extremely satisfying. I can never buy just one...

    Peanut Butter and Bumpy Cake

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Dr. Who and Pizza Night

    I have a few friends who are into SciFi shows - I myself can take 'em or leave 'em. But time with friends is always a must for me, so when they invited me to their Dr. Who Mini Marathon events last week, I agreed and surprised myself by getting into the show too!

    We were going to order pizza, but I suggested making a couple instead since I had a bunch of cool ingredients in the fridge. As usual, we bought the dough from Whole Foods (which has upped the price to about $3 from their original $2.50). I cut the dough in half and rolled each out then let them rest for about 30 minutes. I poked the top for air ventilation and blind baked them for about 13 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

    We covered one with pesto and layered over fresh mozzarella. The other got a spicy marinara cover and was topped with pepperoni, and marinate olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods. We baked the pizzas a second time just until the cheese was melted and the toppings had a nice crisp on them.

    Upon tasting the finished products, the pesto pizza was absolutely divine: nice and buttery from the olive oil in the pesto and the gooey-ness of the fresh mozzarella. I will be making this again soon!

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Raspberry Rhubarb Pound Cake

    My absolute favorite cookbooks are the ones put out by Williams Sonoma - each recipe has a gorgeous picture to accompany it and never once has an item failed me. So this Fourth of July, when the kiddies I was sitting for asked what we were making for dessert, I headed to the Internet to look up a cake recipe.

    I found their recipe for a simple pound cake and decided to make it a little Red, White and Blue themed (minus the blue because I am not a super lover of cooked blueberries, but you could add blackberries if you have them). Here is the recipe adapted from the original.

    For the Cake:

    2 sticks butter, softened
    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 cup yogurt or sour cream
    5 eggs

    For the Filling:

    4 stalks rhubarb, cut into small chunks
    1/2 bag frozen raspberries
    1 Tbs lemons juice
    1/4 cup sugar
    (adding blackberries here will turn the filling a purple color, so hold off if you want red and white)

    Combine the filling ingredients in a saucepan and cook down until the rhubarb is soft. Let cool.

    Combine the wet cake ingredients and then add the dry. Use a mixer to be sure there aren't any lumps. You can add some almond extract if you want, too - about 1 tsp.

    Spray a Bundt pan. Pour in about 1/3 of the cake batter. Add all the fruit compote. Finally, the remaining 2/3 batter. This is my secret tip so the cake doesn't stick to the pan AND you get a gorgeous layer of fruit.

    Bake the cake at 350 degrees for a little over an hour. Check the cake portion, not the filling part so you get a correct measurement. Let cool before serving and serve up nice, thick slices with a glass of milk.

    The cake went so fast I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the sliced product, but you can see the fruit layer in the picture.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Filipino Feast: Lumpia and Pancit

    It's been a while since I could post because for the next week/week and a half, I am babysitting my cousins. I have limited Internet access and am getting a good idea of what you parent bloggers go through :)

    Here are a few Filipino dishes my good friend Alyssa's dad made for her - which she passed along to me because she knows how I love them. Her dad knows, too, since I request his cooking whenever I come into town. Thank you!!!!

    First was Lumpia, an eggroll-like package - I got to try it both fried and fresh. Alyssa said her dad puts tofu, chicken, cabbage, and carrots in the fried ones. The fresh rolls get an extra mixture of suge/crushed peanuts and a fresh lettuce leaf. I wasn't sure how the flavors would go together when I heard he added sugar, but after tasting, I understood perfectly. The roll has the perfect combo of sweet, crunchy, savory, and YUMMY. I don't like deep fried things, but Alyssa's dad's eggrolls are the only ones that don't make me ill afterwards.



    The second thing Alyssa's dad made (which I first fell in love with 3 years ago) is Pancit. It's a Filipino noodle dish with chicken pieces, cabbage, salt, scallions, carrot slivers, and soy sauce (I think). I am going to ask Alyssa for the recipes because I'd love to recreate this. It's so fresh and simple. And great for summer because it's best if you eat it cold or at room temperature. If you know anyone with a recipe for these tasty treats, please pass them along!