Key Lime Cupcakes with Toasted Meringue

Key Lime Cupcakes

Key Lime Cupcakes

There’s something about key lime that conjures up the delightful warmth of basking in the Florida sunshine. The flavor is so bright and tart that eating key lime pie or any other key lime treat magically transports me away from the cold, wind and snow, to sunny south Florida.

It’s for this reason key lime pie is one of favorite desserts and is really the only non-chocolate sweet I willingly order in restaurants, aside from the occasional fruit crisp. Never lemon meringue; it has to be key lime, the tartiest of the tart.

As I’ve slowly become more and more excited about my upcoming Florida getaway, I started thinking about this classic dessert and decided to create my own treat using key lime juice.

I admit it, I used bottled key lime juice. Please don’t judge me – you just try finding fresh key limes in Chicago!

As for my creation, it was delicious miniature key lime cupcakes speckled with lime zest and topped with a toasted meringue that just mellowed the cake’s tartiness, making for an incredible bite.

These sweet and tart morsels of Florida sunshine are the perfect prescription brighten up a drab day.

Key Lime Cupcakes

Key Lime Cupcakes

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Obsessive Chocoholic Foodie Seeking Amazing Microwave Chocolate Cake Recipe

It’s no secret I have a sweet tooth and a serious weakness for just about anything chocolate. Okay, not anything. I wouldn’t enjoy chocolate licorice (I HATE all licorice – I think it’s a texture thing) or chocolate-covered olives (I don’t dig olives either), but almost anything else is fair game.

But when it comes right down to it, nothing satisfies my sweet tooth like rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. And I’m not even snobby about it. I really love the chocolate cake from Portillo’s and wouldn’t shy away from a box mix. I’m a bit more particular about the frosting, but let’s face it, today is really all about the cake.

I don’t make cake often. I’m not a baker and don’t really like to have it sitting around because, obviously, I’d eat the whole thing. Throughout the past year I’ve taken to making microwaved versions of individual chocolate cakes in a mug and have tried more recipes than my hips care to recount.

The problem is they’re never quite right: always a little dry or too sweet or not chocolatey enough.

I’m thinking the biggest taste/texture issue is lack of frosting. After all, the purpose of this cake is to quickly make a single serving and that doesn’t include whipping up a buttercream. Plus, I’m trying to keep the calories somewhat in check.

Today I took a different route that I thought would be more successful. Instead of making a batter that contains baking powder and/or baking soda, I scaled back a very simple molten chocolate lava cake recipe. I thought the flowing, ooey, gooey, lava would make up for the lack of frosting. Makes sense, right?

Well, not if there wasn’t any lava. Microwaving the batter resulted in a mostly cooked through cake that was just so-so in taste. Not that it stopped me from eating it, but again, that’s another issue.

The way I see it, I have four options:

  1. Try the lava cake idea again with some tweaks. I wonder if I can microwave the cake in a water bath?
  2. Come up with a fresh idea.
  3. Give up on this ridiculous obsession all together because these sad little microwaved cakes just aren’t cutting it.
  4. Get my expectations in line and accept that the microwave version will never be as good as the real thing.

Thoughts?

Share

Rigatoni alla Vodka

Rigatoni alla Vodka

Rigatoni alla Vodka

Cooking has been a little challenging for me lately, mostly due to lack of inspiration. The problem is I’ve been trying so hard to eat healthy and graze throughout the day on (mostly) nutritious snacks, that I haven’t been cooking the foods I really want to cook, which I suppose are not considered overly nutritious.

The thing is, I love fish, vegetables, fruits, and all sort of healthy and nutritious food combinations. But I find that most of my inspiration comes from cooking with seasonal ingredients and really embracing what is just right to eat in right now. This is a great way to eat if you live in, say, southern California. Here in the frigid, windy tundra known as Chicago, well, not so much.

Today I decided to throw in the towel, so to speak, and make myself a big, steaming bowl of rigatoni alla vodka. I love this dish but rarely eat it. In fact, it’s one of the first I tried to make when I was brand new to cooking. This was when I was living in Italy during college and I tried SO hard to make pasta with vodka sauce on more than one occasion, but each time ended with a big fat FAIL. I’ve learned a lot since then and have moved onto recipes written in English (I like to think my poor Italian language skills were partially to blame), and now this dish has become easy for me to pull together on the fly.

Rigatoni alla Vodka

Rigatoni alla Vodka

I don’t make it often as I’m trying to stay away from pasta-centered meals, but tonight was a worthy exception. After all, what’s the point on living a healthy life if you can’t have a cheat once in a while?

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Pressure Cooker: Friend or Foe?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GifavOHiFMI[/youtube]

I bought a pressure cooker about a year and a half ago. I’m not really sure why I woke up one morning and decided I just had to have one, but that’s what happened. Very soon after I made Mama Shah’s Kitchari and was so terrified of the pressure cooker that I described cooking with it like “trying to calm an errant two-year-old in the middle of a temper tantrum.” After that I put the entire contraption in the cabinet and hadn’t looked at it since.

Now that some time has passed, I was finally able to work up the nerve to revisit the scary pressure cooker and decide once and for all if it’s worth keeping. After all, I have a pretty small kitchen and cabinet space is at a premium – it’s either ship off or ship out (in terms of cookware, of course).

I first wanted to make barley risotto in the pressure cooker, even went out and bought all the ingredients. But when I consulted the terror-inducing manual to make sure I set the pressure cooker up correctly – you know, because it could blow up and all – I saw that barley can’t be cooked in the pressure cooker. Something about the barley foaming and clogging the valve, causing mass destruction.

After that I decided to try something more traditional: beef stew. The beef stew recipe was great, an adaptation of this one from Self magazine (I used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash and smoked paprika), but didn’t come out quite right in the pressure cooker: the beef was tough and the vegetables a little overcooked.

But the bigger problem was I didn’t see the value of using the pressure cooker. The stew took just over an hour to make using the pressure cooker, and I imagine cooking it the traditional way would’ve only added about 15 minutes and resulted in a better product.

What do I do? Should I retire the pressure cooker to my parents’ basement with my toaster oven, heating blanket, and other items that aren’t worthy of prime cabinet space? Or should I give it once last try to see if I can find value in the product by using it with dried beans or something? And how much does it matter that the darned thing still scares the crap out of me?

Share

Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

For the Super Bowl this year I was charged with bringing a vegetarian appetizer to my friend Ariel’s party. Although I’m a proud meat-eater, I embraced her request and decided to have some fun with it, after all it is the biggest sport day of the year and not exactly a formal dinner.

The oh-so-fun-and-isn’t-it-cute appetizer I made was Savory French Toast Bites, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeurves Handbook. The bites were perfect: a warm finger food that could also be enjoyed at room temperature and had a rich, savory flavor slightly reminiscent of pizza. Adding to my enjoyment was the other guests’ confusion when I told them it was French toast because these bites were nothing like the sweetened, dipped and fried bread enjoyed during brunch.

For starters, this version of French toast is baked and there is no sugar or sweetener involved. The savory ingredients consisted of roasted garlic, basil, tomato and Parmesan cheese – almost like a bread-pudding pizza. Finally, after baking I used a circle cutter to turn the French toast slices into bite-sized rounds, which made for a cute and appealing presentation that was just perfect for the Super Bowl.

And the best part was that there were plenty of yummy scraps leftover for the cook. Just sayin’.

Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

Here’s the recipe:

Read more of this >>

Share

Blog Widget by LinkWithin